Amnesty “incompatible” with human rights law

Posted By: July 17, 2021

John Manley. Irish News. Belfast.Saturday, July 17, 2021

THE BRITISH government’s proposed statute of limitations for Troubles offenses would be “incompatible” with domestic law and international standards, according to the Northern Ireland Chief Commissioner for Human Rights.

Les Allamby was speaking following Secretary of State Brandon Lewis’s announcement of a proposed de facto amnesty for members of the security forces and ex-paramilitaries for conflict-related offences committed up to 1998.

The commissioner’s role is to promote awareness of the importance of human rights in Northern Ireland, to review existing law and practice, and to advise the secretary of state and Stormont’s Executive Committee on legislative or other measures aimed at protecting human rights.

Mr. Allamby said he had concerns with the “Addressing the Legacy of Northern Ireland’s Past” proposals.

He said they appeared to disregard the requirements for an effective investigation under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, while the plan to halt existing inquests and other civil actions also raised “profound issues about the veracity of the rule of law.”

“The Human Rights Commission has long advised that any legislation introduced by the UK government regarding the investigation of violations and abuses of the right to life or freedom from torture, inhuman or degrading treatment that occurred during the conflict must not amount to a de facto amnesty,” the commissioner said.

“This includes any proposed introduction of a statute of limitations or other undue or insurmountable barriers to the prospect of prosecutions – Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights includes a requirement to ensure investigations which are thorough and secure meaningful accountability.”

Mr. Allamby said that 2017, at the request of the NIO, the commission provided formal advice in response to a House of Commons Defense Select Committee report that recommended considering a statute of limitations.

He said the NIO was advised at the time that such an approach would be incompatible with human rights law.

“We will scrutinize the proposals in full and will continue to advise the UK government of its obligations to all the victims of the conflict and their families,” the commissioner said.

“We want to ensure that legislation, and any resulting mechanisms to deal with addressing the past in Northern Ireland are fully compliant with domestic human rights law and international human rights standards.”