The British government’s proposed Legacy Bill has been denounced as “totally unacceptable” as a campaign ramped up this week to demand London “honour its own word” and respect people’s “basic human rights”.
The planned Legacy Bill would end any prospect of effective, independent investigations into conflict-related deaths.
Campaigners have called on the British government to honour its previous commitments on dealing with the legacy of its atrocities in Ireland.
They are demanding that funding is released to allow the Office of the Police Ombudsman to complete outstanding historic investigations, the fulfilment of outstanding legacy agreements and the holding of a public inquiry into the murder of lawyer Pat Finucane.
British Direct Ruler Brandon Lewis is already facing judicial review proceedings over his failure to advance commitments made in the 2014 Stormont House Agreement. Other still unfulfilled commitments on legacy were made in talks processes dating from the 2001 Weston Park deal to the most recent ‘New Decade New Approach’ agreement of 2020.
The Dublin and London governments have this week called for a fresh round of multi-party talks to deal with legacy issues.
Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly accused London of “again acting in bad faith by trying to review or rewrite the Stormont House Agreement”.
He said the 2014 deal cannot be changed without the support of all parties to the agreement, including the political parties and the Dublin government who should hold the British Government accountable in honouring their commitments.
“The Irish Government should not be party to such action,” he said.
“This is unacceptable. Agreements made need to be implemented. There can be no ambivalence or double-speak. We will be seeking urgent meetings with both the British and Irish governments to clarify this matter.”
Ciarán MacAirt, spokesman for the Time for Truth Campaign, described the British government’s newly proposed legislation, which includes an effective amnesty for British soldiers and agents, as “totally unacceptable”.
Protests were held at locations in Belfast, Derry, Lurgan, Newry, Derry and in County Tyrone and County Fermangh last weekend to coincide with British Armed Forces Day, which commemorates British service personnel.
The families of the Time for Truth Campaign, which advocates for victims of state violence, have campaigned to protect the rights of victims and survivors of the conflict.
The group said: “Irish people in the six-counties are fully aware of the consequences of being at the receiving end of British Armed Forces for the past fifty years.
“They have suffered from a range of human rights abuses inflicted by these forces in our homes, streets and laneways, places of employment, recreation areas, in their prisons and interrogation centres. These abuses range from harassment and torture to the wounding and murder of Irish citizens.”
Posters emblazoned with the slogan, ‘No amnesty for British state forces, time for truth and justice’ were raised in the demonstrations.
The group said: “Our focus is on shining a light on British Government strategy in Ireland, a strategy which breached the human rights of citizens on a daily basis including the massacre of civilians on Bloody Sunday, 1972 on this very street in Derry as well as in other districts such as Ballymurphy, Springhill, and the New Lodge.”
The campaigners said families deserved justice where the British state had failed to meet its obligations under Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).
“The latest proposals by them to deny families Article 2 compliant investigations, or access to due process via civil challenges or legacy inquests is totally unacceptable.
“Our mobilisations resume today, carried out within current guidelines. We have organised a series of protest actions across the six-counties in opposition to current attempts to introduce a Legacy Bill next month at Westminster.
“These mobilisations will increase in time and numbers as our campaign develops.”
Solidarity vigils taking place later today (Saturday) will include Derry’s Guildhall, at the High Court in Belfast, and at Newry Courthouse, all at 3pm.
Participants have been asked to bring posters calling for an end to British state impunity and pictures of loved ones who were victims.