British secrecy bid compared to South American dictatorship

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British government plans for a blanket cover-up on conflict-related prosecutions are more sweeping than the amnesty introduced in Chile by the country’s former dictator General Augusto Pinochet, a new report has found.

The report by academics at Queen’s University Belfast and the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ), found that London’s plans were a “betrayal of repeated promises” to victims and a breach of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

The Tory proposals would give a full amnesty to former members of the Crown Forces and their agents and bring an end to future inquests and civil actions.

Professor Louise Mallinder, from the School of Law at Queen’s University, said unlike the British government’s proposals, Pinochet’s amnesty excluded certain crimes such as sexual violence; applied only to the first five most violent years of the 17-year dictatorship; excluded criminal cases already before the courts, and applied only to criminal prosecutions.

“In other words, the proposed UK amnesty is Pinochet plus,” she said.

Under the proposals, families in the north can only attempt to seek the truth through a new information recovery body (IRB). However, Daniel Holder, CAJ Deputy Director, said the IRB will have much more limited powers “essentially limiting it to a desktop review of papers and taking voluntary statements”.

“Such powers fall significantly short compared to those already available to the PSNI, the Police Ombudsman or judicial powers of discovery in a prosecution, inquest or civil action,” he said.

Professor Kieran McEvoy, Professor of Law at Queen’s University, said the plans “represent a unilateral abandonment of the Stormont House Agreement, a breach of the Good Friday Agreement and a betrayal of repeated promises made to victims”.

“This government’s policy on legacy in Northern Ireland is seemingly driven primarily by concerns in Westminster for the fate of a small number of British army veterans being prosecuted for conflict related offences,” he said.

Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly welcomed what he said was a “damning” report:

“If your proposed policies are even to be compared to that of Pinochet, let alone going beyond his policies, you know that you’re acting in complete contempt of the most fundamental and basic of human rights.

“British armed forces cannot be placed above the rule of law and accountability.

“And victims of the conflict and their families cannot be denied access to the courts in pursuit of truth and justice.

“There is no support for these proposals on the island of Ireland, all political parties and the Irish government are united with one voice in opposition.”

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