Campaigners on behalf of what they label as innocent victims of terrorism have described Amnesty International as “perpetrator centric”.
Innocent Victims United (IVU), a coalition of victims from over a dozen victims groups, was responding to an Amnesty event at Stormont yesterday at which the human rights group called on the government to adopt new mechanisms in dealing with the past.
Amnesty gathered victims to call on “political representatives in Belfast and London” to prioritise dealing with the past and put in place measures to deliver truth and justice against the backdrop of the ongoing Haass talks.
Michael Gallagher, whose son was killed in the Omagh bomb; Danny Toland, whose father was shot dead by the UDA in Eglinton in 1976; and Alex Bunting, who was badly injured by an IRA booby-trap car bomb in Belfast in 1991, all backed Amnesty’s message that they feel like “a political embarrassment” to politicians and are demanding truth and justice.
But Kenny Donaldson of IVU said he rejected any impression that Amnesty spoke on behalf of the entire sector.
“IVU met with Amnesty GB a few weeks ago,” he said. “We said we feel that Amnesty is ‘perpetrator centric’ and we raised the Republic of Ireland’s failures in relation to extradition and border security.
“We also raised the disparity between spending on inquiries into security forces killings, when 92 per cent of murders were by terrorists, which Amnesty had been eerily silent on over the years.
“We went into Articles 2 and 8 human rights, the right to life, the glorification of terrorism and ongoing impact on mental health of victims.
“We felt these issues were totally absent from the recent Amnesty report on dealing with the past,” Mr Donaldson said. “We asked them if they would reflect on the issues we had raised when they went public again this week, to give confidence to our constituency that they would be treated with equality by Amnesty.”
Amnesty International Northern Ireland spokesman Patrick Corrigan responded that his group is fighting for “everyone who suffered human rights abuses across the board” and that their report did call for the Irish government to be included in truth recovery, specifically in relation to the RIRA Omagh bomb and the IRA Claudy bomb.
“The Amnesty International event today at Stormont provided a platform for a wide range of victims’ voices, so that politicians would hear directly from victims in advance of the crucial phase of the Haass talks on dealing with the past,” he said.
Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International pointed out that victims of the IRA, Real IRA and UDA backed yesterday’s event. “Many other victims, from a wide range of groups from across the community, including Justice for Innocent Victims [of which Mr Donaldson is secretary], were invited to speak from the floor and they did so, making hugely valuable and powerful contributions.”