Editorial: The United Nations is the latest international organisation to make an anti-UK intervention on legacy in Northern Ireland

News Letter editorial on Friday March 29 2024:
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​In 2021, the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights attacked the UK on legacy.

Dunja Mijatović wrote to the then Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis to criticise “the proposed statute of limitations and its compliance with the UK’s international obligations”.

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As is often the case on legacy, this criticism was reported on the BBC prominently, with no critical voice. There was barely any unionist reaction, and it again fell to the human rights activist Jeff Dudgeon to tear apart Ms Mijatović’s intervention, which he did on these pages (click here to read that essay from Mr Dudgeon).

He cited other actual or de facto amnesties which the Council of Europe had not mentioned, and asked why they had not done so?

The Belfast Agreement release of prisoners; the On-the-Run (OTR) letters given in secret only to republican terrorists; the Royal Prerogative of Mercy pardons; the amnesty, so described in the legislation, in relation to forensic evidence obtained from decommissioned weapons; the prohibition of use of evidence obtained from the bodies of the disappeared; prosecution indemnities for witnesses giving evidence at the Bloody Sunday and other inquiries; agreements in 1999 between Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair not to proceed with Troubles prosecutions; non-investigation into the huge numbers of people involved in 16,000 bombings and 37,000 shootings.

In spite of this long list of amnesties for terrorists, the Irish government has had the nerve to sue the UK over legacy. Not only did Ireland harbour terrorists for three decades, it has given the IRA a de facto amnesty since 1998.

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Now the United Nations Human Rights Committee has said it is “particularly concerned” about the Legacy Act. What a surprise. It too should be asked if it is concerned about the one-sided amnesties for terrorists.