Irish Republican News · September 26, 2015
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Britain’s dirty secrets given precedence over truth and justice


The independence of the planned Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) has already been compromised by news that the British Direct Ruler Theresa Villiers is to grant herself a power to veto the contents of investigation reports to families on ‘national security’ grounds.

Last year’s Stormont House Agreement, still unimplemented, proposed the unit to replace the now defunct Historical Enquiries Team to unsolved killings from the conflict and provide reports to families.

At the time, the United Nations Human Rights Committee reminded the British government it needed to ensure the HIU was independent, and singled out the area of the release of information.

However, the latest policy document said that the HIU “must protect information that, if disclosed, would or would be likely to prejudice national security, including information from the intelligence services”.


Villiers has said the HIU will be overseen by herself, setting aside the normal line of accountability to the Policing Board, where ‘national security’ is involved.

The concept of ‘national security’ in British law remains deliberately undefined, so the veto can be used to censor a report on almost any grounds, and used to cover up human rights violations or any other embarrassment.

The SDLP has voiced concern over the plans. “This is not the way to build confidence in new mechanisms to address the past,” said Alex Attwood.

Sinn Fein victim spokesperson Chris Hazzard separately warned Villiers not to abdicate the responsibility of the British state to victims by “hiding” behind the Stormont House Agreement.

He was referring to a statement by Villiers that her government will only legislate for the HIU and other new mechanisms to deal with the legacy of the conflict once a deal is reached in the current talks at Stormont.

“It was the British Government who were signatories to the European Convention of Human Rights not the devolved institutions, so Britain has clear statutory obligations to fulfil for victims and families,” Mr Hazzard said.

“The mechanisms to deal with the legacy of the conflict need to be implemented independently as victims rights cannot be seen as matters to be traded for political leverage.”

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