Legacy Act to be ‘put to the test’

Human rights body, Ulster Human Rights Watch (UHRW), has said the introduction of the Legacy Act today will be ‘put to the test to see if it can deliver justice and acknowledgement to victims of terrorism’.

UHRW Advocacy Manager Axel Schmidt says the Government has introduced the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act, which must comply with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Mr Schmidt said: “We are interested in finding out if in practice the new Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR) can effectively deliver satisfactory results while dealing with the horrors of our past.

“In the Dillon v. Secretary of State judgment rendered on 28 February 2024, Mr Justice Colton declared that the possibility of granting immunity to perpetrators was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. However, the Court stated that the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery had the power to carry out articles 2 and 3 compliant investigations and that it was an improvement on the situation in relation to inquests. These are positive outcomes from the High Court judgement but there is still preparatory work to be completed before the Commission can be fully operational and necessary adjustments will have to be made in due course.

“The sincerity of the senior leadership in the newly created Independent Commission cannot be doubted but the task they face is considerable. Will the Commission be able to carry out thorough investigations, unveil key information, prosecute or establish the identity of perpetrators to the satisfaction of victims of terrorism? Will the Republic of Ireland cooperate fully with the Commission so as to enable the resolution of cross-border terrorist atrocities? Will the Commission be able to progress towards reconciliation? These are key issues that will have to addressed and evaluated.

We in UHRW are prepared to engage with the Commission and we will judge it on its results and how effective it is in achieving its objectives.

“We strongly believe that justice cannot be shut down, side-lined or sacrificed on the altar of political expediency. The Dublin Government must now be ready to address its own responsibilities by fully on its role in dealing effectively and efficiently with the legacy of the past.

“Victims of terrorism will continue to fight for their right to see justice done in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.”

No closure for Kingsmill massacre families

Human rights group, Ulster Human Rights Watch (UHRW) says the legal process dealing with the Kingsmill massacre is not yet closed.

UHRW Advocacy Support Worker, Jonathan Larner, said: “The conclusion of the inquest has not resulted in closure for the families of the victims.

“This has been a protracted, painful and wholly unsatisfactory process. Evidence from An Garda Siochana in a closed court leaves left much to be desired. It did nothing for openness and transparency when it came to dealing with the legacy of the past.

“Furthermore, it is regrettable that the Coroner did not address the discontent of the families who walked out of the Inquest several years ago.

“We will await the findings and note from the Coroner’s comment how there was no assistance from people purporting to represent the IRA or the wider republican movement.

“The Coroner went on to say that the absence of any commentary or evidence ‘may very well be telling’ when it came to his conclusions.

“This atrocity 48 years ago is still causing pain and hurt. There is no accountability, nothing from a self-styled ‘army’ that held to military rules and no admission of their brutal sectarian murder campaign.”

High Court strikes a blow for victims

Campaigning human rights organisation, Ulster Human Rights Watch, says the High Court ruling on the Legacy Act ‘strikes a blow for victims of terrorism and delivers a blow to the Government’.’

Reacting to the ruling, Axel Schmidt, Advocacy Manager, UHRW, said: “This is a highly significant ruling by the High Court. It strikes a blow for victims of terrorism and at the same time delivers a blow to the Government in advance of the May 1st cut-off.

“Had the Government listened to us and our recommendations from the outset, this embarrassing reversal could have been avoided.

“One of the major sections in the Legacy Act concerning immunity from prosecution is in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) and must mean that the Government should remove it from the legislation.

“Its direction of travel through its Legacy Act was ill judged and now proven to be wrong. UHRW has consistently held the view that victims of terrorism cannot be denied or prevented from seeking justice and this ruling is a clear vindication of our position.”

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