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NI Human Rights Chief Commissioner Responds to Legacy Proposals

16 Jul 2021

The Northern Ireland Chief Commissioner for Human Rights has raised concerns regarding the human rights compliance of the ‘Addressing the Legacy of Northern Ireland's Past’ proposals put forward by the UK Government.

Les Allamby, Northern Ireland Human Rights Chief Commissioner commented:

These proposals appear to disregard the requirements for an effective investigation under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The decision to halt existing inquests and other civil actions also raises 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. 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.

Four years ago at the request of the NIO the Commission provided formal advice in response to a House of Commons Defence Select Committee report which recommended considering a ‘statute of limitations’ as one option for moving forward. At that time, we advised that such an approach would be incompatible with human rights law.

We will scrutinise 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. 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.”

Further Information

For interview requests or for further information please contact Claire Martin on 07717731873 or Claire.Martin@nihrc.org

Notes to editors

  1. On 14 July 2021, in a statement to the UK Parliament, The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis MP, set out the UK Government’s plans for legislation to address the legacy of the Troubles. Full details can be accessed on the Northern Ireland Office website here.
  2. In June 2020 the NI Human Rights Commission provided a submission to the NI Affairs Committee Inquiry into Addressing the Legacy of Northern Ireland’s Past: UK Government's New Proposals. Read in full here
  3. In August 2018 The NI Human Rights Commission provided advice to the Northern Ireland Office consultation on ‘Addressing the Legacy of Northern Ireland’s Past’. Read in full here.
  4. In 2017 the Commission provided advice to the NIO in response to the House of Commons Defence Select Committee Report on investigations into fatalities in Northern Ireland involving British military personnel. The report recommended consideration of a number of options including a statute of limitations which the Commission advised was incompatible with international and domestic human rights standards. Read in full here.
  5. Articles 2 (right to life) and 3 (freedom from torture) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) provide that independent, timely, effective and thorough investigations with an outcome should be conducted into suspected violations of these rights.
  6. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (the NIHRC), pursuant to section 69(1) the Northern Ireland Act 1998, reviews the adequacy and effectiveness of law and practice relating to the protection of human rights.

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