This Bill has had its third reading in the House of Commons and is now at its second reading in the House of Lords. The Northern Ireland Troubles was a conflict that occurred c. 1968 to 1998 and claimed the lives of over 3,600 people and injured 40,000. In most cases, no one has been held accountable. The 1998 Belfast/Good Friday Agreement led to a largely successful peace settlement which has lasted to this day, but some believe that is now at risk.
The Bill has four main parts. Part 1 defines ‘the Troubles’; Part 2 establishes the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery which is charged with reviewing deaths and certain other ‘harmful conduct’ and granting immunity from prosecution to individuals in exchange for information about those individuals’ potentially criminal conduct during the conflict; Part 3 largely ends criminal investigations, prosecutions, civil actions, inquests and inquiries except in specific circumstances; and Part 4 provides for the compilation of histories of the conflict. The Bill is accompanied by a 36 page ‘European Convention on Human Rights Memorandum’ written by the Northern Ireland Office which provides the views of the government on why the Bill is compliant with the Convention.
According to Amnesty, if this Bill becomes law, it will:
- grant immunity to murderers and those responsible for torture
- prevent victims from accessing justice
- breach the Good Friday Agreement
- go against other existing agreements between the UK and Irish Governments and Northern Ireland Political Parties on dealing with the past
- create a two-tier justice system in the UK
- set an international precedent, signalling to other states that they too can ignore their human rights obligations.
Victims, victims’ groups, Northern Ireland political parties, the Irish Government and all opposition parties at Westminster also oppose the Bill. International concern has been raised by the US Congress, the Council of Europe Commissioner on Human Rights and UN Special Rapporteurs. They say that, far from reconciling anything, the Bill as it stands dramatically restricts the human rights framework on which the Northern Ireland peace process is built. See the Action Links to call on the Prime Minister to scrap this Bill.