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Statement: NIHRC Intervenes in Legacy Act Judicial Review

21 Nov 2023

Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission Intervenes in Legacy Act Judicial Review

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has intervened in the cases before the High Court in Belfast to challenge the human rights compliance of the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act 2023. The hearing of the cases begins today (21 November).

Alyson Kilpatrick, Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, commented:

"The Commission has made clear its concerns about the failure of this legislation to comply with the law, in particular that which was incorporated into UK law by the Human Rights Act 1998.

"The Commission considered its position carefully. Court challenges of this nature are a last resort, once other options have been exhausted. The Commission advised the UK Government of its human rights obligations and of the Commission’s belief that this legislation would breach those obligations. We considered the amendments made as the Bill progressed through Parliament but have reached the view that those amendments fall far short of what is required to comply with the law. The Commission welcomes the opportunity to join the proceedings and will outline its argument to the court."

The judicial review will commence on 21st November 2023, in the Nisi Prius court of the Royal Courts of Justice on Chichester Street, Belfast.


For any queries contact

Due to ongoing legal proceedings the Commission will not be conducting media interviews.

Notes to Editors

What the case is about

  • The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act 2023 ‘Legacy Act’ was passed into law on 18 September 2023. It makes significant changes in how crimes which occurred during the Troubles in NI will be treated. In brief, it envisages the current system of criminal prosecutions, inquests and civil claims associated with the Troubles being almost entirely ended and replaced by ‘reviews’ carried out by a new body, the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR). It also provides for a grant of immunity to suspected perpetrators of Troubles-related offences who co-operate with these reviews.
  • Following the Legacy Act passing into law, the NI High Court received over 20 applications for judicial review challenging various provisions of the Act. The Court identified a lead case, which was broad enough to capture the breadth of issues and grounds raised by the applicants on the relevant statutory provisions of the Legacy Act relating to inquests, civil proceedings, Police Ombudsman NI investigations, criminal investigations and immunity. Three other supplementary applicants were also granted leave for the judicial review.

Why we are intervening

The Commission was granted leave to intervene in the challenge, by way of both written and oral submissions. The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, WAVE and Amnesty International have also been granted leave to intervene.

The Commission has had an active role in legacy issues since its inception and has provided a significant amount of advice to the UK Government in respect of its proposals to establish mechanisms for dealing with legacy issues, in a manner that is compatible with its domestic and international human rights obligations.

The Commission has provided advice on the legislation during the passage through Parliament, the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers. The Commission’s advice is available at: Publications - Dealing with the Past | Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (

Human rights engaged

This judicial review and the intervention of the Commission sets out that the following ECHR rights are engaged:

  • Article 2 (right to life - including investigation into loss of life)
  • Article 3 (prohibition from torture or inhuman and degrading treatment)
  • Article 6 (Right to a fair and public hearing)
  • Article 8 (Right to privacy and family life)
  • Article 14 (Right to non-discrimination)
  • Article 1 of Protocol 1 (Right to peaceful enjoyment of property and possessions)

The judicial review also raises grounds under Article 2 of the Windsor Framework.

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