NI: Troubles victims’ groups demand HIU in full-page ad

Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers
Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers

Groups representing the families of more than 150 victims of the Troubles have used a full-page advertisement in the Irish News to criticise the UK government and call for the establishment of an independent Historical Investigations Unit (HIU).

The open letter, addressed to Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers(pictured), is headlined: “Secretary of State, your Government is in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights”.

It was drafted and published by Justice for the Forgotten (JFF) and the Pat Finucane Centre.

A statement printed above a harrowing list of victims and their dates of death reads: “You failed to implement the recommendations of the Consultative Group on the Past. You failed to implement the Haass/O’Sullvian proposals. Now you are failing to implement the Stormont House Agreement.

“Your government is waiting for us to die off but our families will not go away. We demand a fully independent HIU and implementation of the other legacy proposals.

“All bereaved families have a right to truth, and to have their proposals on how to achieve that right, respected. These are rights not privileges.”

In a further statement published yesterday, Paul O’Connor of the Pat Finucane Centre said: “The anger and hurt expressed by bereaved families today is the tip of a very large iceberg.

“Families, whether Catholic or Protestant, from both communities, in the privacy of their own homes, are both angry and grieving.

“The use of ‘national security’ as a veto by the British Government over the release of information by the proposed Historical Investigations Unit to families is unacceptable. While living individuals have rights under Article 2 of the ECHR, ‘national security’ cannot be used as an excuse to withhold evidence of criminal wrongdoing and other vital information from bereaved families.

“This is not an insolvable impasse. With goodwill, common sense and respect for international legal standards, the legitimate wish of families to the truth they so earnestly desire, and deserve, can be achieved.

“They, and we, appeal to every concerned member of the public – and all politicians – to renew their efforts to reach agreement on how to investigate the past.

“Now is the time to set the truth free.”

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