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There will be no amnesty in the North

In the past few weeks, a number of reports have appeared in print and electronic media which have conveyed a misleading view of the proposals on dealing with the past contained in the Stormont House Agreement (SHA). Some of these have focused on the Independent Commission for Information Retrieval (ICIR), or on the Implementation and Reconciliation Group (IRG), which are two of four mechanisms proposed in the agreement.

It has been suggested that perpetrators who confess to these bodies will receive an amnesty and that their names will not be made public. The impression has been given that perpetrators of human-rights abuses will be able to escape justice, because of the SHA proposals.

We wish to put the record straight.

The SHA proposals do not allow for amnesties and they increase the possibility of effective prosecution of perpetrators — in contrast to the current, patchwork system, which too often provides impunity to perpetrators.

The Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) will pursue all available evidence and bring perpetrators to justice where possible, as long as legislation implements it in a human rights-compliant manner. The separate Independent Commission for Information Retrieval will receive information from anyone, including perpetrators. To ensure that information is forthcoming, this will be kept confidential, in the manner of the longstanding approach used by the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains with respect to the ‘disappeared’.

This will be a crucial route for victims to find out more about what happened to their loved-ones, but is wholly separate from, and will not prejudice, the work of the HIU, in investigating and bringing perpetrators to justice. Whatever is said to the ICIR, if evidence from other sources comes to light the perpetrators can still be prosecuted — there is no amnesty. If there was, you can be assured that our organisations would be making our concerns heard loud and clear.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International

Brian Gormally, Committee on the Administration of Justice

Paul O’Connor, Pat Finucane Centre

Mark Thompson, Relatives for Justice

Yasmine Ahmed, Rights Watch UK

Bill Rolston Emeritus Professor, Ulster University


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