Amnesty International calls Government's Troubles-era crime immunity plan a 'denial of rights'

The aftermath of the 1987 Enniskillen bombing

Amnesty International has called the UK government's plans for a ban on prosecution for Troubles-era cases "a sinister denial of rights."

The UK government announced in Tuesday's Queen's speech plans for immunity for Troubles-related crime dependent on individuals co-operating with an information recovery body.

There was outrage last year when the Government unveiled proposals to offer an effective amnesty for Troubles offences.

The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill appears to have been tweaked in response to the almost universal opposition to the original proposals.

A Downing Street spokesperson described this new bill as "striking the right balance" between different interests.

However, Amnesty International have not been satisfied by these changes - describing the Government's plans as an attack on victims and their families.

Grainne Teggart, campaigns manager for the charity, said: "No one is fooled by the UK government’s attempt to dress this up as anything other than a process designed to block victims from ever getting justice.

"Once again, victims are being shamefully let down."

The DUP's Sir Jeffrey Donaldson was more equivocal in his response to the announcement, saying that his party would study the bill as it was presented to parliament to ensure it protects the right of "innocent victims" to "pursue justice".

"We have very clear principles in terms of how we deal with the legacy of the past" Sir Jeffrey said to reporters in Westminster on Tuesday.

"We must not allow a situation to develop where people are able to rewrite the narrative which suggests that the terrorists who committed terrible atrocities across the board are somehow either exonerated or can walk away."Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O'Neill said that she did not believe the British Government's approach will, "reflect what is needed here."

"We must deal with the past so we don't burden today's generation with that," said Ms O'Neill, "we must deal with the past to give people the closure they need, and I am very certain the way to do that is not to give impunity and immunity to British forces serving here."SDLP MP for Foyle and party leader Colum Eastwood criticised the British government for reforming it's proposals without first consulting politicians in Northern Ireland.

He said that the current proposals lacked detail or clarity, and called the announcement "another mess."

The new bill has been made in response to two separate backlashes against the UK Government over Troubles-era prosecutions.

The first was a British political backlash against the prosecution of British ex-service people for offences committed during the Troubles.

A number of conservative backbenchers, most notably former minister Johnny Mercer, had been highly critical of the government for allowing such cases to proceed.

The government then announced plans for a blanket ban on Troubles era cases which led to a second backlash.

This time, all of Northern Ireland's political parties and a range of local and international human rights groups came out as staunchly against the proposals.

Tuesday's announcement represents an attempt to find legislation more palatable to all concerned.