It is with some surprise that the Ulster Human Rights Watch heard the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland say ‘no-one has presented him with an alternative to the Government’s Legacy Bill.’
Since 2017 UHRW has committed to taking part in all public consultations on the UK Government’s proposals to deal with the legacy of the past.
UHRW Advocacy Manager, Axel Schmidt, stated: ‘On each occasion our organisation submitted proposals for an alternative. In 2018 UHRW opposed the Stormont House Agreement proposals and submitted detailed proposals for an alternative. These proposals were based on fundamental principles and a definition of victim of crime that were in compliance with Northern Ireland legislation and the European Convention on Human Rights.’
‘It is the sad reality that despite all the representations made, the UK Government has chosen not to take into account balanced proposals that were human rights compliant.’
‘Since September 2022, when dealing with the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill, UHRW have submitted 13 proposed amendments and 2 recommendations in order to make the legislation human rights compliant. Some of these proposals may have influenced minor amendments that were introduced in the House of Lords. However, the Secretary of State has not upheld them in the House of Commons.
Axel Schmidt added: ‘It is therefore not accurate for the Secretary of State to say that no-one presented him with an alternative. There was an alternative, which was to support legislation that upheld human rights in a democratic society, while opposing terrorism and preventing the history of the Troubles from being re-written.’
‘It is regrettable, that the Secretary of State deliberately decided not to use the alternative and it is likely that the legality of the Legacy Bill, once given the Royal Assent, will need to be challenged in Court in the non-too-distant future.’