UK government fails to respond to UN on legacy bill

Posted By: July 24, 2023


Distributed to Congress by Irish National Caucus



UK government fails to respond to UN on legacy bill that ‘flagrantly contravenes’ human rights conventions.

John Breslin. Irish News. Belfast. Wednesday, July 19, 2023.

The UK government has failed to reply to a highly critical UN letter on the legacy bill sent to London more than a year ago.

No reply was received despite Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris in January blaming an administrative error on the delay and that it would be issued soon after.

The UN’s human rights office (OCHCR) confirmed on Wednesday it has not received any response officially or has been otherwise contacted by the UK Government to discuss the concerns.

Two special rapporteurs, Fabian Salvioli and Morris Tidball-Binz, in the July 2022 letter asked the government for information on how the bill complies with “international norms and standards in the field of truth, justice, reparation, memorialization and guarantees of non-recurrence.”

No reply to United Nations over legacy bill (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

They also expressed concern the bill “bans and, in some cases, unduly restricts Troubles-related criminal investigations and enforcement actions, civil actions, coronial inquests, and police complaints into deaths and other harmful conduct related to the Troubles, such as acts of torture.”

The NIO on Wednesday referred questions to the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO), which did not reply when asked why the government had not sent a response.

Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Kyle said: “It is disturbing if the government has evaded the UN’s questions, particularly given the global concerns about the legacy bill.

“The Labor Party, along with all parties and communities in Northern Ireland, opposes the bill because it benefits terrorists more than their victims.

“We urge the government to hit pause and reconsider over the summer.”

In January, in a written answer to a question why it took so long to respond, Mr. Heaton-Harris said the government “will be apologizing for this administrative error and delay.”

“A response was drafted by the Northern Ireland Office following receipt of the formal communication from the United Nations Special Rapporteurs in July 2022,” Mr. Heaton said.

“Following a delay due to an administrative error, this will be issued shortly by the responsible department, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.”

In a follow-up statement on the legacy bill, the UN rapporteurs described the bill as flawed and one that “flagrantly contravenes rights obligations.”

They described the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR) as a body whose truth-seeking powers are severely limited by restrictions in its timeframe, scope of work, and caseload under its purview.”

“The Bill will substantially hamper victims’ access to remedy before criminal and civil courts for the serious human rights violations and abuses suffered. It would further preclude information recovery and reparations for those victims who have for decades struggled to get justice and redress for the harm endured,” the experts said.