Northern Ireland Troubles legacy Bill ‘cannot be made compatible with human rights’

Damage at Enniskillen after the bombing in 1987. Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

A new Bill aimed at addressing the legacy of Northern Ireland’s troubled past “cannot be made compatible with human rights”, a Westminster committee has heard.

The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill envisages offering immunity from prosecution to people who are deemed to have co-operated with the information retrieval body.

Criminal prosecutions could still take place for those that do not.

It seeks to establish an Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR) to review deaths and other incidents.

However, the tweaked bill has been opposed by the majority of victims groups and political parties.

It passed its second reading last month with the support of Conservative MPs, but was not backed by any of the Northern Ireland MPs.

More than 3,500 people were killed during the Troubles, including more than 1,000 members of the security forces.

Conservative MPs hope the measures will stop “vexatious” action against British military personnel who served in Northern Ireland..

Alyson Kilpatrick, Northern Ireland Human Rights Commissioner, gave evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee on the Bill on Tuesday morning.

She said the main aim is to channel all investigations, prosecutions, civil claims, inquests and police complaints into one body, and expressed concern the investigations are being turned into reviews.

She also voiced concern at the lack of distinction between crimes a person can be granted immunity for, including murder, kidnap, rape and torture.

“What it also means is police will be prevented from investigating, the courts will be prevented from ruling, prosecutions will be prevented … that is a very substantial interference with the rule of law and with everything the UK has signed up to,” she told MPs.

“On its face, it clearly isn’t (human rights compliant), it’s clearly in breach of the Human Rights Act.

“We have gone through this Bill in real detail, piece by piece and also as a whole to see whether there is anything redeeming in it that could be made compatible or could save this Bill from being found to be incompatible.

“We cannot see a way in which the Bill can be made compatible when taken as a whole.”

Victims Commissioner Ian Jeffers, Wave Trauma Centre chief executive Sandra Peake and Peter Murtagh for the South East Fermanagh Foundation are also set to give evidence to the committee in a later session.