US Congressman accuses UK government of 'massive cover-up' over Troubles amnesty proposals

A United States congressman has slammed the UK Government's proposed statute of limitations for Troubles-era killings as part of a “massive, ongoing cover-up by the British government.”

At a human rights hearing, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) said the move “imperils the fragile peace in Northern Ireland.” The New Jersey congressman has previously chaired 17 congressional hearings on human rights in Northern Ireland and has authored a law and several resolutions promoting the peace process here.

The government's proposal as outlined by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis would grant de facto immunity to those responsible for troubles era crimes.

“One party to the Good Friday Agreement, the United Kingdom, is contemplating a unilateral decision to declare immunity by passing a statute of limitations for Troubles-era killings before there has been full accountability, against the express wishes of nearly every major actor in Northern Ireland, be they Catholic or Protestant,” said Rep. Smith.

“There is nothing benign about an amnesty when it is all about concealing facts that would hold people to account for murder,” said Smith, who noted he will introduce a resolution in the House denouncing the UK’s proposal in solidarity with victims of the Northern Ireland conflict.

Entitled “Northern Ireland: Accountability at Risk,” the hearing featured testimony from Geraldine Finucane—the wife of the renowned human rights lawyer Pat Finucane, who was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries in 1989 in collusion with British security forces.

Other key witnesses at the hearing reiterated the threat posed by the UK’s proposal including Mark Thompson, Chief Executive Officer of Relatives for Justice; Jon Boutcher, Head of Operation Kenova; Alan McBride, Co-coordinator of the Wave Trauma Center; and Louise Mallinder, Vice-Chair of the Committee on the Administration of Justice.