Troubles Pension Law Does Not Bar Terrorists – Newsletter 26.07.2019

At least not until we get in the legislation absolute certainty, clarity and transparency around the introduction of a pension for victims and survivors of the terrorist campaign that has blighted a generation.

We have seen the headlines, the government assurances given on the floor of the House of Commons as well as the apparent relief that followed. Northern Ireland Office Minister, John Penrose MP, said that while it was right and proper to provide a pension for victims of Troubles-related terrorist incidents, “this should not become a pension for terrorists.”

And for good measure, in a further most welcome contribution, Mr Penrose stated that “there is no moral equivalence between a bystander badly injured in a terrorist explosion through no fault of their own, and the people who manufactured the bomb, placed the bomb and detonated the bomb.”

Why, therefore, is the Ulster Human Rights Watch Advocacy Service not satisfied with what on the face of it, at least, is an unambiguous Parliamentary statement? What has changed since the unfortunate and ill-advised recommendation by the Victims’ Commissioner who refused to close the door to terrorists qualifying for pensions?

Pension parity between victims and the perpetrators of scores of murders, bomb attacks, so-called punishment shootings and beatings, abductions and untold economic damage inflicted on Northern Ireland and Great Britain would be an outrage and an insult. The Urgent Question tabled by the DUP’s Emma Little-Pengelly extracted from the Minister a reply that was required – but only as a first step.

So far, so good or so it would appear.

It’s only when you delve into the detail of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill, the legislative instrument, that you find a dearth of detail and certainly nothing that matches the weighty and welcome Ministerial words of Mr Penrose.

In fact, the legislation offers no guarantees whatsoever that terrorists will be denied a pension. The devil is in the detail, specifically Section 3(11) and Section 6.

According to Section 3 (11), the Secretary of State must publish a report before 4 September ‘on progress towards preparing legislation implementing a pension for seriously injured victims and survivors of Troubles-related incidents.’ This is in line with the ‘interpretation’ of victim and survivor in Article 3 of the Order 2006 – an ‘interpretation’ which clearly and intentionally equates the perpetrator with the innocent victim.

Interestingly, Section 3 (14) provides that the Secretary of State must also publish a report before the 4 September ‘on whether the definition of “victim” in Article 3 of the Victims and Survivors (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 should be revised to apply only to a person who is injured or affected wholly through the actions of another person’. A report is one thing, but there is no mention here of progress towards legislation for a ‘new definition of a victim’.

The likely outcome is that on 4 September we will have proposed legislation for a pension and only an opinion as to whether or not the definition of ‘victim’ should be changed. As long as the definition of victim is not changed, there is nothing to prevent terrorists from getting the pension whatever Ministers may be saying along the way.

In the Ulster Human Rights Watch’s view, this is a very dangerous, if not a deceitful, omission. There is a definite requirement for nothing less than watertight legislation to prevent perpetrators from benefiting financially. Bad enough that terrorists of whatever hue should cause such heartache and pain, but it would be an act of unspeakable callousness and a double injustice to victims and survivors if they were to gain in any way from their barbarity.

For these reasons, the Ulster Human Rights Watch Advocacy Service advises against any premature celebration and instead urges all victims of terrorism in Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom to continue to be vigilant. We welcome the encouraging words at Westminster, but much work remains to be done before 4 September so that the report on the pension for victims will result in the necessary legislation being proposed and enacted, which protects victims of terrorism and does not reward the perpetrators – anything less is not acceptable.

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Expediency Should Play No Part in Troubles Pensions – Newsletter 23.07.2019

There is something seriously wrong when a suggested remedy on Northern Ireland’s troubled past causes those in greatest need of help to be re-traumatised and hurt.

Hundreds of good people, some grappling with daily anguish and intolerable pain, have been left financially high and dry because of an inability to sort out and or acknowledge the true meaning of the term ‘victims and survivors’.

Ulster Human Rights Watch (UHRW), (a registered charity with the remit of helping innocent victims of the thirty plus years terrorist campaign), believes that a person who was shot, maimed or psychologically scarred by the actions of the gunman or bomber, from whatever side, should qualify for a victim’s or survivor’s pension.

In contrast it also asserts that those who planted the bomb or pulled the trigger do not deserve to be rewarded with State funds for attempting to murder and cause mayhem – they are not victims or survivors. The very people who perpetrated countless acts of savagery deserve nothing. In fact, the bomber whose bomb prematurely detonated, causing permanent disability to himself, should not have any expectation of any State ‘reward’ whatsoever.

This is a matter of what’s right and wrong. And, simply, it’s wrong to include the terrorists in the same category as the people they set out to hurt or kill. The Ulster Human Rights Watch believes that political expediency should form no part of deciding who qualifies for a pension.

The dangers of placating and rewarding paramilitary criminals and giving them equivalence with victims and survivors is an anathema, indeed it is an appalling injustice. All it would succeed in doing would be to cause additional unnecessary suffering and make those innocents who bore the brunt of a monstrous murder campaign suffer further enormous distress and a sense of worthlessness.

There is no other civilised country in the world where terrorists are rewarded for their actions. Why should the UK, and specifically Northern Ireland, decide it can be out of step with international norms by essentially saying the terrorist gunman, wounded during an engagement with the security forces, is now on a par with the soldier or police officer left with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or a life-changing physical injury?

Lives scarred by terrorism should not have to be re-traumatised in this manner. Any objective assessment will see that turning natural justice on its head in such a hurtful and disrespectful manner is counter-productive and a denial of the truth. The recent revised advice, offered to the Secretary of State by the Victims Commissioner, lacks decency, sensitivity, empathy and respect for real victims of terrorism.

It should and must be rejected by the Government.

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Tribute to William Frazer

The members of the Board and staff of the UHRW would like to express their sympathy to the family of William Frazer and particularly to his wife and son.

Those who met or heard Mr Frazer speak at various events were not left indifferent. He went through the trauma of losing his father at the age of 14, who was murdered by IRA terrorists. This harrowing experience was further exacerbated by the murder of four other members of his family by the same terrorist organisation. Yet William Frazer never engaged in any form of retaliation against those who were responsible for murdering his loved ones or who directed acts of terrorism in Northern Ireland. On the contrary he courageously bore the marks of a victim of terrorism and this led him to take a stand against terrorism.

While he never claimed to be well-educated, and was a somewhat private and unassuming person, one could not help being impressed by his fearless approach of those who opposed his views and his stand. He may not have done all things well and wisely, but he was aware of his limitations. Like other Ulstermen before him William Frazer was his own man, independent minded, who tried to follow the course of action he had chosen to the very end.

For those who believe in God, the sadness of his departure is replaced with the joy of knowing that, since he was also a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, he is now with the Lord, which is far better.

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