UN human rights experts have expressed “grave concerns” over a plan by Britain to provide an effective amnesty to those who carried our killings and other crimes on its behalf in the north of Ireland.
International opposition has been growing to the Tory plans to introduce a sweeping statute of limitations, ending all conflict-related prosecutions, litigation and inquests.
Victims of the atrocities carried out by British forces and their agents have expressed outrage at the plan to shut down their campaigns for truth and justice, including some which have made substantial breakthroughs in recent years.
British prime minister Boris Johnson claimed the proposals would “draw a line under the Troubles”, but has admitted the plan is motivated by domestic political opposition to the prosecution of former soldiers.
Members of the UN Human Rights Council have said that the proposals would “thwart victims’ rights to truth” and would lead to Britain violating its international obligations.
The UN experts took the view that the proposals “would effectively institute a de-facto amnesty and blanket impunity for the grave human rights violations”.
The statement was issued by the UN Special Rapporteurs Fabián Salvioli and Morris Tidball-Binz, both part of the council’s special procedures body of fact-finding experts.
They warned that the plan “does not seem to include measures for establishing the full extent of the truth about the human rights violations perpetrated during the Troubles and about the circumstances, reasons and responsibilities that led to them.
“Nor does the proposal seem to ensure that this truth is accessible to all victims and to society as a whole, with due consideration of the needs and safety of victims and with their full consent, as established in international standards.”
Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill welcomed the intervention. She called for the UN experts to be invited to the north to take part in legacy talks and speak with victims’ families.
“The British government amnesty proposals are clearly an attempt to put state forces beyond the reach of the law and to continue to deny truth to families,” she said.
She said it was clear that if implemented, the proposals would represent a “flagrant and open disregard of international obligations and established human rights norms and practices”.
“This intervention by UN experts, at this time, is a further signal that the international community is alert, awakened and aware of the British government’s cynical intent to cover up their dirty war in Ireland.
“The UN intervention is a real wake-up call – to Britain’s legacy intention – for all who seek to uphold and protect the rights of all victims.”
JUSTICE EFFORT INCREASES
Meanwhile, the brother of a Catholic man shot dead by loyalists 30 years ago has said his family will intensify its fight for truth and justice, despite British government amnesty plans.
Jervis Lynch was 26 years old when he was killed at his home in Magheralin, County Down, in January 1991 by the Mid Ulster UVF. Senior figures involved in the area included suspected British agents Robin ‘The Jackal’ Jackson and Billy Wright.
An inquest heard that members of the Lynch family found his remains lying in the porch of their home as they returned from Mass.
At the time the Catholic Bishop of Dromore Dr Francis Gerard Brook, said Mr Lynch was “an innocent victim of a cowardly sectarian attack”, but his brother believes the loyalist unit that killed his brother was controlled by the Crown Forces.
“The Mid-Ulster UVF claimed responsibility for murdering Jervis,” said Hugo Lynch.
“That organisation was infiltrated, directed and controlled by RUC special branch, sections of the British military, and the intelligence services MI5,” he claimed.
He said that despite the British government proposals his family will continue with its campaign for truth.
“We intend to intensify our search for truth, justice and accountability despite proposals by the same government who employed the agents, armed them and controlled the very organisation responsible for murdering Jervis,” he said.
“It is abundantly clear that the British government has much to hide about its dirty war and collusion.”
The family’s lawyer Kevin Winters, of KRW Law, said: “Legal agitation through the courts has helped continue to expose this toxic state agenda.
“As is the case with so many other sectors of the conflict, just as families are making real head way the British government wants to lock up the courts.
“By launching this latest case the Lynch family are sending a clear message to Brandon Lewis and the State - they won’t be silenced by any amnesty threat.”