Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United said he has “grave concerns” that the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) plans for dealing with the past will undermine the possibility for justice from criminal, civil or coronial proceedings.
NI Secretary Theresa Villiers has confirmed plans to allow those guilty of Troubles-related murders to confess and walk free – without any of their disclosures being given to victims.
If families engage to find out about their loved one’s murder and they then tell what they have learnt, this would prejudice any future criminal or civil case, Mr Donaldson said.
“Effectively families are being used to copper fasten a structure which has ‘amnesty’ written all over it despite the protestations of the NIO and Government.”
He expressed scepticism as to whether the Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) will be able to examine “unsatisfactory” cases closed by HET.
And both he and victims campaigner Willie Frazer slammed the “double standards” of the UK committing to “full disclosure” on the past while Dublin only accepted “full cooperation”.
Mr Frazer noted that victims have been pressing Dublin for files for the Kingsmills inquest for over a year with little satisfaction.
Both he and Mr Donaldson insisted victims were not consulted about the NIO plans.
Mr Frazer said: “So the IRA man who drove the gunmen to shoot my father can come and have his conscience cleared by confessing what he did, but this cannot be used against him in a court of law – nor will we know what he has said?
“That is a criminal offence – withholding information from a terrorist investigation.”
But DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said: “We do not believe the Independent Commission on Information Retrieval will provide the truth for most families and we made that clear at the time. However, some families outlined their support for this type of process and we were able to support it because of key details which were negotiated and agreed.”
UUP MP Tom Elliott warned that a public consultation had been promised but is not now on the table. “Are we going back to pre-1998 when legislation was steamrollered through Westminster without community consultation or at best no cognisance given to the public’s views?” he asked.
An NIO spokesperson said: There is no amnesty in this paper nor will there be an amnesty in the bill. Where evidence exists for a prosecution of any crime in relation to the Troubles, the law will take its course.”