A human rights charity that campaigns on behalf of innocent victims of terrorism is seeking urgent clarification from the Government on proposed new legacy legislation.
Lurgan-based Ulster Human Rights Watch (UHRW) is worried that the legislation, to be introduced within 100 days, will ignore the voices of the victims and favour terrorists who carried out heinous crimes against them.
UHRW says the document, ‘New Decade, New Approach’, which was approved by all of the main parties and the two Governments, raises serious questions of fairness, integrity and transparency that must be addressed.
Ulster Human Rights Watch Advocacy Manager, Axel Schmidt, said: “It seems innocent victims of terrorism are once again pawns in this political game. The views of victims of terrorism that were submitted to the NIO by the Ulster Human Rights Watch during the consultation on addressing the legacy of Northern Ireland past do not seem to count. We now have an end point, and it is the 20th April, and we will be re-doubling our efforts to ensure victims of terrorism are not abandoned and discounted by legislation.
“These are people who have suffered enough and deserve better. They do not need to hear concessions to those who planted bombs and murdered their loved ones. They certainly do not need to be relegated in importance in order to placate some politicians or to keep them anchored to the restored devolved institutions.
“What is proposed in the Stormont House Agreement (SHA) raises the greatest concerns for law abiding people and innocent victims. It has the potential to turn natural justice on its head. In effect, it provides equivalence between the terrorist and the police and military personnel who did everything to protect lives and property.
“The SHA proposes the creation of a Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) which enables investigations for ‘non-criminal police misconduct’. That is where former or deceased police officers can be pilloried for making genuine mistakes. Just imagine the upset that that would cause the family of a decorated police officer?
“We have written to the Secretary of State Julian Smith MP requesting an urgent meeting to get clear (some) answers. The Government is now engaged in ‘an intensive process’ with the Northern Ireland parties and we would like certainty and transparency on what it has in mind. On the evidence so far, this process raises questions of fairness and integrity and given our legitimate and serious concerns, what is required for victims of terrorism to deal with the past cannot be ignored any longer.”