Experts produce draft legislation on legacy of the Troubles

Posted By: September 17, 2015

INDEPENDENT experts have released their own legal blueprint for dealing with the legacy of the Troubles, one month before government is expected to produce the official legislation.
The academics from Northern Ireland’s two universities, working alongside human rights groups, set out how they believe the British and Irish governments should implement plans contained in the Stormont House Agreement.

Researchers identified additional powers that legacy organisations will require to carry out the work and they questioned whether the five year timescale for dealing with the past will meet the needs of victims.

And while government is believed to prefer the eventual destruction of information which is due to be confidentially gathered on murders from the Troubles, the experts have proposed locking the files for 50 years to help educate future generations.

The Stormont House Agreement (SHA), brokered last Christmas in inter-party talks, agreed the creation of new structures to investigate the Troubles, seeking prosecutions or further information on murders, and to attempt to help heal the wounds of the conflict. The plans are now caught-up in the renewed political controversy at Stormont.

But Alan Brecknell, a victims’ campaigner who was seven-years-old when his father was killed in a gun and bomb attack in 1975, said victims had a right to truth and justice.

“My family and thousands like us have waited too long to see truth and justice for what happened to our loved ones,” he said.

“The UK government must now act in good faith to legislate for all the mechanisms agreed at Stormont House – including the Historic Investigations Unit to investigate past atrocities, and an information recovery commission to let victims know what happened to their family members.

“Different victims want different things from new mechanisms to deal with the past. Indeed, my own family has different views on issues such as the need for prosecutions.

“But every victim has the right to justice and the right to truth and, after so many false dawns in the past, the government at Westminster must now deliver, in full, new effective mechanisms to finally deal with our terrible recent history.”

The Detail has reported extensively on the impact of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, available here.

Academics from Ulster University and Queen’s University Belfast, plus human rights groups the Committee on the Administration of Justice and Amnesty International, led the research into how the legacy groups should be set-up.

The experts considered the SHA blueprint for:

• An Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) to take forward investigations on Troubles-related deaths with a view to seeking prosecutions.
• An Independent Commission on Information Retrieval (ICIR) through which next of kin could alternatively seek information on the deaths of loved ones.
• An Oral History Archive to provide a central place to share experiences and narratives.
• An Implementation and Reconciliation Group to oversee themes, archives and information recovery.

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