Public Prosecution Service should carry out a review of its policies

Following collapse of the prosecution of two soldiers, Ulster Human Rights Watch is calling on the Public Prosecution Service to carry out a review of its policies.

UHRW Advocacy Manager, Axel Schmidt, said, “This review should be carried out so that cases which have no prospect of success are not pursued and the hopes of families of those who died while involved in terrorism are not raised and then dashed.”

Yesterday, UHRW met with met Danny Kinahan, Veterans Commissioner for Northern Ireland and John Mercer MP, former UK Minister for Veterans. The discussion considered how best to deal with the prosecution of soldiers in historical cases related to the Troubles.

Mr Schmidt commented “It was made clear that former soldiers do not want an amnesty. Their duty was to protect democracy and law-abiding people’s human rights against the onslaught of terrorist activities, while acting within the law at all times. Equality for all before the law remains paramount.

“Due to the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland during the Troubles, the procedures put in place to investigate incidents involving the army do not meet with the legal standards for successful prosecutions today.

“There is now much work to be done to ensure that the mechanisms for dealing with the legacy of the past facilitate the recovery of information, so that they give a true picture of what the fight against terrorism meant for those whose duty was to protect fundamental freedoms and human rights in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.”

Victims’ Payment Scheme detail needed now

Human rights charity, Ulster Human Rights Watch, is calling for more information about the Victims’ Payment Scheme.

UHRW Advocacy Manager, Axel Schmidt, said, “On the Victims’ Payment Scheme, Mr Justice McAlinden has stated that it is his ‘intention to open the scheme on 30 June 2021’. We welcome this and sincerely hope that this timeline will be adhered to.

“However, victims who have endured such a prolonged wait still need more details. How do they apply? How are the assessments to be made? And, when will the first payments be made?

“If the scheme is to be open in a little over 8 weeks, surely this information is available and should be made public as soon as possible.

“The innocent victims and the families we represent have suffered for so long with each delay in the implementation of the Victims’ Payment Scheme. They need to be treated with the utmost respect and dignity, and we hope that the parameters and implementation of the scheme will do that.”

Time for details on delayed victims’ pension

Human rights charity, Ulster Human Rights Watch, is calling on Ministers to speed up pensions for innocent victims of terrorism following the court pledge by Stormont to pay for the delayed scheme.

UHRW Advocacy Manager, Axel Schmidt, said the commitment by The Executive Office and Finance Minister appears to have brought this sorry chapter over funding to a close, pending further contribution from the UK Government.

Mr Schmidt said: “Now, we must get a firm date for the start of the scheme. The Department of Justice will administer the scheme and we need to hear a clear timetable being given for implementation from Minister Naomi Long.

“Ministers must move with speed to address all outstanding questions. When will they invite applications to be made to the Victim’s Payments Board? What evidence will be required of applicants? What will the different stages of the process be? How long will applications take to be considered? And finally, when will payments be made to victims?

“We assume, perhaps incorrectly, that a lot of the ‘architecture’ of the scheme has been put in place while Belfast and London argued over who funded the scheme.

“What is required now, after such an unnecessarily long, drawn-out and much-delayed process, is a demonstration of generosity and kindness. The best way of doing that is to get the scheme up and running in weeks not months.

“The last obstacle appears to have been removed, although the scheme is almost one year overdue because of political dispute and disagreement. Ministers have definitely not covered themselves in glory, but they have a last chance to do the right thing and get pensions to people who deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.”

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