A conditional amnesty is best, with emphasis on truth and reconciliation over justice

Letter to the editor
Letter to the editor

Having read the News Letter’s ‘Legacy Scandal’ series could I suggest that a conditional amnesty process along the lines I proposed in my submission to the Commission for Victims and Survivors might be of interest.

It is based on the principle of voluntary disclosure, where anyone can avail of an amnesty provided they are willing to engage with the victims.

The emphasis is on Truth and Reconciliation rather than Truth and Justice in a society where ‘justice’ is a highly contested issue and court cases are often, regrettably, regarded as war by other means.

There are precedents elsewhere, most notably South Africa; and this process has the advantage, for victims and survivors, that they would learn the truth about what happened to them and, or relatives who were killed.

For many perpetrators, or former combatants, having to engage with people they injured or the families of those they killed might prove more difficult than a criminal trial.

There is also a strong probability that the vast majority of police investigations will never be concluded during the lifetimes of either the victims or perpetrators, especially older cases reaching back almost 50 years.

As most of your contributors point out, there is a significant imbalance in how those accused of crimes are treated under the present dispensation.

It was suggested that blanket amnesties or statutes of limitation might be given to security force members. However, the best legal experts have already told the House of Commons Defence Committee that if such measures were applied discriminately they would leave the United Kingdom in breach of its obligations to the International Criminal Court and the European Court of Human Rights.

But the greatest potential benefit of a conditional amnesty is the opportunity it offers to heal the most poisonous legacy of the Troubles.

Padraig Yeates, Dublin