Troubles bill amendments ‘make it even worse’

Troubles bill amendments 'make it even worse'

Proposed UK government amendments to its controversial Troubles bill do not address concerns raised by victims and human rights campaigners and some of them “would actually make the bill worse”, according to a new analysis.

The Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) and academic colleagues have strongly criticised claims by the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) that the latest amendments to the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill address some of the “principal concerns” about the legislation.

The new amendments were tabled by Lord Caine on Wednesday 18 January 2023, with the bill reaching committee stage in the House of Lords today.

In a statement on the amendments, the NIO claimed that they seek to “address some of the principal concerns raised since the bill’s introduction, including by victims and survivors”.

Daniel Holder, CAJ deputy director, said: “Despite the NIO claims, these amendments do not even attempt to address the concerns raised by victims, or the international community. Some are just window dressing and others would actually make the bill worse.

“Spin from the NIO has been a feature throughout the whole process of the legacy bill. This is another real moment of gaslighting.”

Professor Kieran McEvoy from the School of Law at Queen’s University Belfast said: “These amendments are not actually designed to help victims get to the truth. If the government wished to facilitate truth recovery it would ensure that the proposed commission had the proper legal powers to conduct investigations to get to the truth.”

CAJ, with input from academic colleagues, has produced a detailed analysis of the amendments which has been submitted to the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers (CoM), which oversees the UK’s compliance with international human rights obligations flowing from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The CoM previously set out a range of areas of the UK legacy bill that would require amendment to meet even minimum legal standards under the ECHR. These included reconsidering the proposed ‘conditional immunity’ amnesty scheme, as well as the proposal to end legacy inquests.

CAJ’s analysis of the bill has found that the NIO amendments have made no attempt to address any of these areas.

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