UHRW criticism of legacy plans

Ulster Human Rights Watch (UHRW) Advocacy Manager, Axel Schmidt, said: “For legislation to work, it must place innocent victims of terrorism front and centre. The plight of people who suffered at the hands of bombers and gunmen must not be relegated or downplayed.

“Justice is the cornerstone of our democracy. The door to delivering that justice must not be closed or narrowed. Otherwise, good people who carry the burden of loss or lifelong disabilities will feel betrayed and abandoned.

“The State has a duty of care to the men and women who served in the Police and Army and any suggestion that they should be treated on a par with terrorists is abhorrent and wrong. There can be no equivalence.

“We have reservations about elements of the Bill such as the story-telling provisions and during its passage through Parliament, it would be our hope that the draft legislation will be considerably amended to prevent easy access to former terrorists to propagandise and re-set their heinous acts as somehow justified or legitimate.”

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UHRW asks Dublin for its legacy proposals

Ulster Human Rights Watch (UHRW) has asked Dublin for its proposals on legacy and how to deal with the past.

The Lurgan-based charity which champions the cause of innocent victims of terrorism was commenting after Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, criticised the Government’s Legacy and Reconciliation Bill.

UHRW Advocacy Manager, Axel Schmidt, said: “Dublin has failed to produce any ideas or proposals on how to deal with the past since the Stormont House Agreement.

“There is much in this draft Bill brought forward by the Secretary of State, Brandon Lewis, that we would oppose and challenge, but it is a bit rich for Mr Coveney to lambast what is set out and not look to the Republic of Ireland’s own shortcomings.

“The Irish Government cannot exclude itself from what happened in the past. There was a safe haven for terrorists across the border. Attacks were mounted on security personnel – many part-time soldiers and police officers – from the Republic of Ireland. People were abducted in Northern Ireland and brought across the frontier where they were tortured and murdered.

“Is Dublin’s trying to forget its role in all of this? Abdicate its responsibility? It cannot sweep away its own involvement or attempt to re-write history.

“Yet, we’ve heard nothing – complete radio silence – from the Department of Foreign Affairs when it comes to presenting its own suggestions or proposals on how to deal with the past.

“Mr Coveney cannot simply wash his hands of this and point the finger of blame at the British Ministers when his administration has failed to move the process forward constructively. It’s time for some frank and honest discussion without accusing the other side of getting it wrong.”

UHRW says new legacy proposals are unbalanced

Ulster Human Rights Watch (UHRW) says it would be unacceptable to compel retired police officers and soldiers to co-operate with an information recovery process under proposed new legacy legislation.

The Lurgan-based registered charity says what is suggested is unbalanced. It will also serve to create the impression that former terrorists are to be treated more favourably than the men and women who protected law-abiding civilians, upheld human rights and defended democracy.

Advocacy Manager, Axel Schmidt, said: “What is outlined so far falls short of what is required.

“The Government wants to compel retired police officers and army personnel to come forward and cooperate with some form of information recovery process, which is obviously unacceptable.

“Meanwhile, Ministers seem prepared to open the door for former terrorists to come forward with the guarantee that they would not be prosecuted unless there was sufficient evidence against them and they refuse to co-operate with the information recovery process.

“This is also unacceptable as it would help them get off the hook and provide them with a platform to justify their engagement in terrorism.”

Mr Schmidt welcomed one aspect of the proposed legislation which centres on the level of disclosure of information by the State. Mr Schmidt added: “This is what needs to be encouraged without having to seek information from retired security forces personnel and terrorists.”

The creation of an oral archive is also causing concern. “In our view, this would be an unsafe route to go down as it would give former terrorists and their sympathisers the opportunity to justify their abominable actions.

“I believe innocent victims would feel most uncomfortable contributing to such a project,” said Mr Schmidt.

UHRW also questioned a proposed Reconciliation and Information Recovery Commission and wants to know what the Government means by ‘reconciliation’ since it is open to widely different interpretations.

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