UHRW supports Convention-compliant ICRIR

Victim of terrorism support organisation, Ulster Human Rights Watch, has written to Hilary Benn, Labour MP, Michael O’Flaherty, Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe and Christos Giakoumoloulos, Director General of Human Rights and Rule of Law at the Council of Europe, urging them to continue supporting the newly established Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR).

UHRW said it held the view that since the Dillon v. Secretary of State judgement rendered by the High Court in Belfast on 28 February this year, the immunity provisions in the Act were declared incompatible with the Convention. The Court also confirmed that the ICRIR has the power to deal with historical investigations in a Convention-compliant way. Therefore it has the potential to deliver positive outcomes for innocent victims of terrorism in a more effective way than under the Stormont House Agreement proposals.

The Lurgan-based human rights body said it had engaged with the Chief Commissioner for the ICRIR, former Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, Sir Declan Morgan, and made a number of recommendations for its Operational Design with a view to positively contributing to the operation of the agency, which is in the process of being considered and addressed.

This is a welcome and positive step, since UHRW’s responsibility is to make representations so as to advise and guide on what is required to address the needs of victims of terrorism with a view to delivering for them as far as possible truth, justice and acknowledgement.

UHRW Advocacy Manager, Axel Schmidt, said: “We’ve written to Mr Benn and the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Michael O’Flaherty, and Council of Europe Director General of Human Rights and Rule of Law, Christos Giakoumoloulos, to make them aware of our position.

“After careful consideration, we’ve arrived at the view that the ICRIR, following the High Court judgement, has the means to be fully Convention-compliant, which is also an improvement on the situation concerning inquests. This is why we have justified reasons to support it for the benefit of the victims we represent.”

In the letter to Mr Benn, Mr O’Flaherty and Mr Giakoumoloulos, UHRW said: “It must be recognised that the ICRIR does provide a means of addressing the legacy of the past that is European Convention-compliant.

“We would therefore urge you to support the continuity of the ICRIR while resisting the revival of the Stormont House Agreement proposals, which would favour the justification of terrorism, fail to meet the needs of Victims of Terrorism and prevent Northern Ireland society from moving towards peace and reconciliation.”

Mr Schmidt said they’d asked for a meeting with the former Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to set out the position in greater detail.

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.”

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