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29 Sept 2022

British troop amnesty plan condemned

Pat Finucane Centre and SDLP leader criticise UK Government proposals to grant immunity from prosecution to British soldiers who 'co-operate' with criminal investigations relating to The Troubles

Bloody Sunday cameraman passes away

No British soldiers have been successfully prosecuted for any of the deaths on Bloody Sunday. Soldiers could receive an amnesty from prosecution under UK Government plans for Troubles-related deaths.

Plans by the British Government for a 'blanket amnesty' for UK troops who served in the North during the Troubles were slammed as being “aimed soled at protecting state actors from prosecution”.

The Pat Finucane Centre in Derry, blasted the proposals laid out by the Conservative Government in Westminster during the Queen's Speech this week.

British troops will be offered immunity from prosecution for offences during The Troubles if they provide full co-operation to truth recovery investigations.

A Government note which accompanied the Queen's Speech said of the plan that: “The new commission provides the best route to give victims and their families the answers they have sought for years as well as giving our veterans the certainty they deserve”.

However, Sara Duddy of The Pat Finucane Centre', accused the British Government of not serving “the needs of victims or survivors”.

She said: “The British Government plan for dealing with the legacy of conflict in Northern Ireland has at least indicated an understanding of why the ‘blanket amnesty’ proposed last July (which would have blocked any legal redress for bereaved families, irrespective of the perpetrator) has failed to gain any political or civil support.

“This plan, however (for a ‘conditional immunity’ i.e. immunity from prosecution if the individual ‘co-operates’ with a newly formed ‘Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery’) has been designed with only one aim in mind.

“It is not designed to serve the needs of victims or survivors. It is aimed solely at protecting state actors from prosecution who were involved in conflict-related deaths.

“The original ‘blanket amnesty’ was rejected, even by British ex-soldiers, who refused to accept any equivalence with paramilitaries.

“This new system, however, would potentially allow a state actor, responsible for causing a death, merely to reiterate whatever statement they made at the time – usually an attempt to justify their actions. There would be no robust scrutiny of those claims.

“Without an investigation, other evidence would not be produced. Their statements would remain unchallenged and untested. This is completely unacceptable to a majority of families we represent.

“The erroneous narrative that the ‘vast majority of deaths involving the state were justified’, as stated in the British’s Government’s Command Paper last year, would stand.

“There are no details on whether the British Government plans to establish a new investigative body for cases where individuals don’t come forward. Or what would happen if a family rejects a self-serving ‘co-operative’ statement.

“What is clear is that today’s proposals are vague and will only serve perpetrators of violence – not their victims. The Pat Finucane Centre will continue to lobby and advocate on behalf of victims and survivors for a Historical Investigations Unit as proposed in the Stormont House Agreement.

“We believe that there is not only a legal but a moral imperative to put such a unit in place.”

Foyle MP and SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood, also voiced his condemnation of the proposal.

Mr Eastwood stated that the Northern Ireland Office should have learned its lesson after previous proposals met strong resistance from all parties but has instead revised its plans without consulting local political leaders.

He said: “This British Government never learns. Instead of working with local political parties to reach a consensus on dealing with the past, difficult as that may be, they continue to go it alone and have produced proposals that have failed to generate support from a single political leader in Northern Ireland.

“Now we learn, in a companion document to a Queen’s Speech, that there will be changes to the flawed proposals for a general amnesty but have no details on how any new process would work. We also have little clarity on plans for legacy inquests and civil cases currently before the courts. This is another mess.

“There is no one who has faith in this government to do the right thing by victims, survivors and their families. The failure to engage with parties on these important issues is another sign of the dismissive arrogance that the British Government approaches this place with.”

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