Human Rights Body calls on Government to give ‘Urgent Clarification’ on Stormont House Agreement

The Secretary of State has been asked by Ulster Human Rights Watch (UHRW) to provide urgent clarification on the status of the Stormont House Agreement following comments he made in Dublin.

A key part of the draft legislation on the Stormont House Agreement concerns a range of controversial legacy matters and a consultation is currently underway on a Victims’ Payments Scheme.

However, the Secretary of State, Julian Smith, was quoted in the press as saying that the British Government was ‘dedicated to the Stormont House Agreement’. He added that they were talking at the moment about how ‘to ensure the Stormont House Agreement is implemented in full.”

Ulster Human Rights Watch Advocacy Manager, Axel Schmidt, has asked if the 2014 Stormont House Agreement was a done deal, then why were people being asked to respond to a public consultation.

Mr Schmidt said: “Mr Smith must shine a light on what is actually going on. If the Government is committed to the implementation of the Stormont House Agreement, we must ask why the pretence of listening to the views of our organisation and others who represent innocent victims and survivors of terrorism.

“If this is a sham exercise, and the Stormont House Agreement is as good as a done deal, the government stands accused of pulling the wool over our eyes. Is Mr Smith closed to our views and concerns? Is he deaf to the legitimate objections to a range of proposed legacy measures such as a Historical Investigations Unit, the really awful ‘non-criminal police misconduct’ or ‘collusion by another name and an oral history archive which will assist the terrorists of yesteryear to re-write the past?

“Mr Smith owes us all an explanation. I have today written to him seeking clarification or confirmation that we are, indeed, now wasting our time preparing formal responses.”

Human Rights Body Urges ‘Big Response’ to Victims’ Payments Consultation

A Northern Ireland human rights body is calling on all innocent victims left physically or psychologically injured during the ‘Troubles’ to respond to the Government’s Consultation on a Victims’ Payments Scheme.

Ulster Human Rights Watch (UHRW), which is based in Lurgan, said there are only ten days left to respond to the Consultation and it was vitally important to register opinions and views.

UHRW Advocacy Manager, Axel Schmidt, “We would have liked to see the consultation period extended to allow more time for victims and organisations to deliver responses, but that is unlikely to happen.

“That means the pressure is on to meet the 26th November deadline. This is too big an issue to be ignored or let go by default. The consultation can be done online or a written submission can be made.

“Either way, Ulster Human Rights Watch can help you make your views known on the proposed compensation scheme. Is it fit for purpose? Are the monetary amounts satisfactory? Is there enough in the scheme to exclude people injured ‘by their own hand’?

“The last thing we want is to see the completely unacceptable situation where terrorists are rewarded for their actions. The Government has given assurances on this front but we must be certain there is no wriggle room for the gunmen or bombers to qualify for payments.

“We would urge you most strongly to make a submission. We can advise on how to make sure your voice is heard and also assist in completing the consultation on your behalf.”    

Ulster Human Rights Watch services are free and they can be contacted on: 028 3834 4500 or by email:

Response to CAJ Claim at NI Affairs Committee

15 October 2019

Dear Mr Hoare,

Re: Consultation on implementation of the Stormont House Agreement – Supplementary Written Evidence to Northern Ireland Affairs Committee by the Committee on the Administration of Justice

I am writing to you following the supplementary written evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee submitted by the Committee on the Administration of Justice in response to my previous letter sent to you, dated 12 September 2019.

The Committee on the Administration of Justice has expressed its support for the existing ‘interpretation’ of victim and survivor contained in Article 3 of the Victims and Survivors (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 and its opposition to the definition of victim of terrorism proposed by the Ulster Human Rights Watch.

Article 3 of the Victims and Survivors (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 under the title ‘Interpretation: “victim and survivor”’ reads as follows:

“3. —(1) In this Order references to “victim and survivor” are references to an individual appearing to the Commissioner to be any of the following—
(a) someone who is or has been physically or psychologically injured as a result of or in consequence of a conflict-related incident;
(b) someone who provides a substantial amount of care on a regular basis for an individual mentioned in paragraph (a); or
(c) someone who has been bereaved as a result of or in consequence of a conflict-related incident.
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of paragraph (1), an individual may be psychologically injured as a result of or in consequence of—
(a) witnessing a conflict-related incident or the consequences of such an incident; or
(b) providing medical or other emergency assistance to an individual in connection with a conflict-related incident.”

Therefore this ‘interpretation’ applies to any individual who, whether a victim of crime or the perpetrator of the crime, has been bereaved or injured physically or psychologically as a result of a violent incident occurring in or after 1966 in connection with the affairs of Northern Ireland.

It is important to note that the terminology used in the Order is ‘interpretation’ of ‘victim and survivor’, not definition of victim and survivor.

It is helpful in this regard to consider the implications in Northern Ireland legislation of Directive 2012/29/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime.

Article 27 of the Directive under the title “Transposition” states:

“1. Member States shall bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with this Directive by 16 November 2015.
2. When Member States adopt those provisions they shall contain a reference to this Directive or be accompanied by such a reference on the occasion of their official publication. Member States shall determine how such a reference is to be made.”

The Directive provides in Article 2 under the title ‘Definitions’ a definition of a ‘victim of crime’ which reads as follows:

“(a) ‘victim’ means:
(i) a natural person who has suffered harm, including physical, mental or emotional harm or economic loss which was directly caused by a criminal offence;
(ii) family members of a person whose death was directly caused by a criminal offence and who have suffered harm as a result of that person’s death;
(iii) ‘family members’ means the spouse, the person who is living with the victim in a committed intimate relationship, in a joint household and on a stable and continuous basis, the relatives in direct line, the siblings and the dependants of the victim.”

As stated in the transposition note relating to the Directive (attached as an Annex to the Explanatory Memorandum to the Victim Charter (Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2015) Order (Northern Ireland) 2015), the definition provided by the Directive has been implemented in Section 29 of the Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2015.

The ‘definition’ of the Directive has been further implemented in the Victim Charter, which is a Charter for victims of criminal conduct, which was drawn up in compliance with Section 28 of the Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2015. It was laid before the Northern Ireland Assembly on 14th September 2015 under section 31(2) of the Act and makes reference in paragraphs 18 to 22 to the definition of a ‘victim’ as mentioned in the EU Directive (2012/29/EU).

It therefore clearly appears that the ‘interpretation’ of ‘victim and survivor’ provided in the Victims and Survivors (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 does not comply with the definition of victim of crime provided by the EU Directive (2012/29/EU).

This ‘interpretation’ would consequently need to be reviewed so that ‘victim and survivor’ designates only an individual who is a victim of crime, not a perpetrator of crime(s), in order to comply with the ‘definition’ provided in EU Directive 2012 (2012/29/EU) that has already been implemented in the Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2015 and in the Victim Charter.

In view of the above, the definition of victim of terrorism proposed by the Ulster Human Rights Watch aims to address the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland due to intense and sustained terrorist activities over a prolonged period of time. It seeks to cover all events connected with terrorist actions, which fall within the interpretation of terrorism provided in Section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000, and have resulted in deaths and injuries caused to innocent people, including children. It clearly excludes perpetrators of terrorist acts who were killed or injured as a result of engaging in terrorism.

The Ulster Human Rights Watch submit that the ‘interpretation’ of victim and survivor in the Victims and Survivors (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 must urgently be reviewed and replaced with a definition of victim of terrorism, compliant with the definition of victim of crime that has already been enshrined in the legislation in Northern Ireland.

I would be most grateful if you could bring the content of this letter to the attention of your colleagues on the Committee and take every possible measure to resolve this fundamental issue so as to bring about a proper and lawful definition of victim and survivor.

Yours sincerely,

Axel Schmidt
Advocacy Support Manager
Ulster Human Rights Watch Advocacy Service

Click here to see this letter published on the NIAC website

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