NI: UN human rights expert meets with key NI officials in ten-day trip

Les Allamby and Pablo de Greiff
Pictured (l-r): Les Allamby and Pablo de Greiff

UN human rights expert Pablo de Greiff has met with key officials in Northern Ireland as part of a ten-day trip to address the legacy of the Troubles.

Mr de Greiff, the UN Special Rapporteur on truth, justice and reparation, began his visit on Monday and has already met with government officials, academics, representatives of the legislative and judicial branches, law enforcement officials, and a broad range of victims and civil society actors.

He said: “With the adoption of the Stormont House Agreement in 2014, important new opportunities were created to address the ‘legacy issues’ of the Northern Ireland conflict. I also intend to offer advice to the authorities and civil society in relation to the implementation of this Agreement and other related initiatives.”

Mr de Greiff’s preliminary findings and recommendations will be presented at a press conference in London next Wednesday.

Chief Commissioner Les Allamby of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) met with Mr de Greiff two days ago.

Mr Allamby told Irish Legal News: “It was a great opportunity to meet with the UN special Rapporteur to discuss how we deal with the past in Northern Ireland.

“We look forward to his report being presented to the United Nations next year, when the Commission will exercise its speaking rights and respond as the National Human Rights Institution.”

Mr de Greiff later joined a range of academics from Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) and Ulster University at an academic roundtable chaired by QUB’s Professor Kieran McEvoy.

Professor McEvoy told Irish Legal News: “The conversation focused in particular on the current draft legislation proposed by the British government on dealing with the past in Northern Ireland.

“A number of those present have been involved in drafting a ‘model bill’ on dealing with the past and Mr De Greiff was very interested in this a mechanism for civil society actors to influence government legislation.

“Mr De Greiff heard concerns about the government’s efforts to use national security considerations in the current draft as a means of preventing family from receiving the full truth about what happened during the conflict; some of the risk associated with a focus on individual hurt and loss rather than broader structural themes which shaped the conflict; the importance of the independence of the proposed mechanisms; and the role that having a broader sense of the ‘big picture’ in terms of the themes of the conflict would have in preventing violence and human rights abuses from re-occurring in the future - a key element of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate.”

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