Ireland formally lodges inter-state case against UK

Ireland formally lodges inter-state case against UK

The Irish government has formally lodged its inter-state case against the UK with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

The application, challenging the UK’s controversial Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act 2023, was lodged on 17 January 2024 and registered under no. 1859/24.

The government had announced the move in late December following calls from victims and survivors of the Troubles.

The Law Society of Northern Ireland, all major Northern Ireland political parties, the Irish government, the Council of Europe, Amnesty International and Westminster’s joint committee on human rights all castigated the bill during its passage in Westminster as failing to fulfil the UK’s obligations under international human rights law.

The Irish government argues that certain provisions of the Act are not compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, relying on Articles 2 (right to life), 3 (prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment), 6 (right to a fair trial), 13 (right to an effective remedy), and 14 (prohibition of discrimination).

It alleges, in particular:

  • that sections 19, 39, 40 and 41 of the Act guarantee immunity from prosecution for Troubles-related offences, provided that certain conditions are met, contrary to Articles 2 (right to life) and 3 (prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment) of the Convention;
  • that Parts 2 and 3 of the Act replace current mechanisms for information recovery with respect to Troubles-related offences (including police investigations and coronial inquests) with a review by a newly-established Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery, contrary to Articles 2 (right to life), Article 3 (prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment) and Article 13 (right to an effective remedy);
  • and that section 43 of the Act prevents both the initiation of new Troubles-related civil actions before the courts and the continuation of civil actions not commenced before 17 May 2022, contrary to Article 6 (right to a fair trial) read alone and in conjunction with Article 14 of the Convention (prohibition of discrimination).

This is the second inter-state case between the states following Ireland v. the United Kingdom (no. 5310/71), in which the ECtHR found against the United Kingdom in 1978. The court rejected an application by the Irish government to revise that judgment on 20 March 2018.

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