The PSNI has refused to tell some 50 families whether suspects in the murder of their loved ones have been given what they believe to be amnesties or ‘on-the-run’ (OTR) letters.
Markethill victims group FAIR said that their members wrote to the chief constable in February asking whether any suspects in the murders of their loved ones have OTR letters.
The families believe the PSNI is acting inconsistently in withholding the information, as it has already confirmed that two suspects in the Kingsmills massacre have OTR letters; and that John Downey’s trial last year for the IRA Hyde Park bombings collapsed because it was revealed he too held such a letter.
FAIR spokesman Willie Frazer said: “It is important for families to know if someone has been given an amnesty for the murder of their loved ones.
“Families feel, at the very least, they should know if an amnesty has been given, even if the name of the person is not disclosed to us.”
Critics hold that the letters were amnesties but the authorities insist they only indicated that individuals were not wanted for questioning at the time of issue.
The PSNI confirmed it had received the correspondence and replied that it “could not comment”.
A spokesman said the PSNI has already said that it is “currently considering the potential criminal liability of 228 ‘on-the-runs’ with a view to bringing offenders to justice wherever possible”.
He added: “As the information requested may impact on cases which could lead to arrests and prosecutions, it would be inappropriate to confirm what information we hold or do not hold regarding suspects.”
Police only disclosed that some suspects had OTR letters under the direction of the coroner’s court legacy process, he said.
But TUV leader Jim Allister responded that for too long victims have been “an inconvenient embarrassment to the political process and indeed the PSNI”.
He said that Peter Robinson initially promised to resign unless he was told who the 187 recipients of the letters were, but Mr Allister added that this information was never published.