Legislation introduced at Westminster is set to shore up the legality of murders and other crimes committed by state agents and informers in Britain and the north of Ireland.
The British government has denied the bill is a “licence to kill”, claiming it will be compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Ironically, it has also indicated it intends to withdraw from the ECHR.
MI5 has long allowed its informers and agents to carry out crimes. In particular, the 1989 assassination of a Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane, who was shot 14 times at his family home in front of his wife and children, was carried out by an MI5 agent. However, a court only narrowly ruled the policy was legal at the end of the last year, putting a question mark over the spooks’ current operations.
Four human rights organisations, the Pat Finucane Centre, the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) Reprieve, and Privacy International, have called for the Bill to be amended to include explicit restrictions against the most serious offences, including murder, torture and sexual violence.
In a joint statement they said the introduction of the Bill was a recognition by the London government of the fundamental constitutional issues raised by them in court last year.
“The Bill represents a belated recognition by the government that it cannot continue secretly and informally signing off crimes,” the organisations said.
Sinn Féin’s policing spokesperson Gerry Kelly said the British government was placing their agents “above the rule of law” and giving them a green light to carry out serious crimes, including murders.
“Ironically, the British government has given a commitment that agents will comply with the EU Human Rights Act – however, this is the same Human Rights Act that the British Government have indicated that they plan to dismantle as part of their manic Brexit,” he said.
“In Ireland, we know that this amnesty for agents is nothing new.
“Throughout the conflict, British state agents were allowed to carry out countless killings – many under direction of intelligence agencies, RUC and the British Government itself.
“No one should be above the rule of law. British state agents must be accountable for their crimes.”