Grand cover-up plan under pressure

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A British plan to impose a statute of limitations on all war crimes committed in the north of Ireland could be in breach of international law, a European human rights commissioner has said.

Dunja Mijatović of the Council of Europe has written to the British Direct Ruler in Ireland, Brandon Lewis, to warn against the “blanket, unconditional nature” of the amnesty.

In July, Lewis announced plans to end all prosecutions for conflict incidents up to April 1998. It would apply equally to British military and police as well as republican and loyalist armed groups. The proposals are intended to “draw a line under the Troubles”, according to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The British proposal effectively means that none of those involved in any serious violations will be held to account in any forum.

“Beyond the impact on justice for victims and their families … this is also deeply problematic from the perspective of access to justice and the rule of law,” Ms Mijatović said.

However, in a reply, Lewis appeared to back away from enforcing the statute of limitations, at least in the short term.

“In publishing our proposals for addressing the legacy of Northern Ireland’s past in the command paper of 14 July, we were clear that these were intended not to represent a final position but rather to inform a process of engagement.

“This engagement – which involves meeting with political representatives, representatives from the victims sector and victims and survivors directly – is ongoing,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, a letter signed by 36 members of the US Congress rejecting the British government’s proposals has been published.

In the letter to Boris Johnson, the members expressed concern that the proposed legacy laws would strain the British-Irish relationship and “cement widespread feelings” that justice is being denied.

The letter, led by Congressmen Brendan Boyle and Brian Fitzpatrick, said it would be a “serious mistake” for the British government to renege on its commitments under the 2014 Stormont House Agreement, adding it would lead to “major setbacks” in the search for justice and reconciliation.

They said they were disappointed that the London government plans to introduce new legislation that would modify the legacy laws under the talks deal.

“To be clear, we strongly disapprove these proposals,” they added. “We believe that they would not only prevent a pathway to justice, but that they would also strip these families of their legal rights protected under European Law and the Good Friday Agreement.

“The issue of legacy killings spans across generations and any continued deprival of justice will only further deepen the wound that this history has on Britain and Ireland.

“We are concerned that these legacy laws would strain the British-Irish relationship and cement widespread feelings that justice is being denied.”

They also expressed concern that the Historical Investigations Unit, set up under the Stormont House Agreement, has been slow to investigate legacy cases, describing it as “stagnant”.

“Had the Historical Investigations Unit been provided with the resources and attention it was promised more substantial progress might have been achieved over the past several years,” they added.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald welcomed the letter. She said the US Congress “has always acted to safeguard our agreements and promote the cause of peace and reconciliation in Ireland.

“I welcome this letter today that rejects the British Government’s unilateral proposals to end all investigations and grant a universal amnesty.

“Their proposals run contrary to the Stormont House Agreement and undermine the human rights commitments of the Good Friday Agreement.

“Boris Johnson should listen to Congress, victims groups, the churches, all political parties, and the Irish Government and take these proposals off the table.”

“Boris Johnson should listen to Congress, victims groups, the churches, all political parties, and the Irish Government and take these proposals off the table.”

MOBILISATION

Meanwhile, the Time for Truth Campaign is calling for demonstrations in every county at noon on September 25 against the amnesty plan.

Spokesman Ciarán MacAirt said: “The families of the Time for Truth Campaign are mobilising across the 32 counties of Ireland to tell Boris Johnson and Brandon Lewis that all families have a right to truth and justice.

“We are mobilizing to protect our basic human rights and will demand no less than equal access to due legal process and investigations which are compliant with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

A list of confirmed locations for the demonstrations is available online at www.tftcampaign.com

COURT CHALLENGES

And legal efforts to uncover the truth behind some of the most serious crimes committed by British forces add their agents are being ramped up.

A judicial review undertaken by some of the relatives of those murdered on Bloody Sunday has been taking place in Belfast to challenge the refusal to prosecute soldiers the the massacre of 14 civil rights demonstrators on January 30 1972. Judgement has been reserved in the review.

And a decades-long police effort to block more than 30 civil lawsuits against the man alleged to be a top British spy in the Provisional IRA has been overturned by the High Court. The actions of the double-agent named as Freddie Scappaticci are understood to be a top target of the current Tory cover-up bid.

Welcoming the judgment, Claire McKeegan, who represents some of the victims, told the court this week that “at every turn the PSNI and MoD [Ministry of Defence] have attempted to delay these cases being heard in open courts”.

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