- The Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act will create a new commission
- Victims say that it will deny them chances to pursue legal action in courts
- Government says it will allow Northern Ireland to move forward
A controversial new law aimed at ending prosecutions linked to Northern Ireland‘s troubled past will face legal challenges this week.
The new legislation offers a conditional amnesty to those accused of killings during the so-called Troubles and will stop future civil cases and inquests.
But survivors of terrorist attacks and families of those killed during the conflict have said the law denies them their last chance of securing justice in the courts.
Instead the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act will lead to the establishment of an Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR).
Victims of the conflict have lodged applications for judicial review of the law.
Survivors and families of those killed during the Troubles say that the proposed new law denies them their last chance of securing justice in the courts
More than 3,500 people were killed during the Troubles, the majority of whom were civilians
The latest challenge will focus on the cases of John McEvoy, who survived a terrorist attack on a pub in 1992, Lynda McManus, whose father James was murdered the same year in Belfast, and Brigid Hughes, whose husband was killed when the SAS ambushed an IRA unit in Co Armagh in 1987.
The Government has described the new act as an attempt to draw a line under the events of the past.
But lawyers claim the legislation is unconstitutional, unlawful and incompatible with the Human Rights Act.
The victims, supported by Amnesty International and represented by Phoenix Law, are challenging the new act over its denial of future inquests and ban on civil claims.
John McEvoy, who was seriously injured in a gun attack in 1992, has said: ‘As victims we have been affected in different ways, but we all stand to lose out by this law which grossly denies us our rights; that’s why we’ve come together to challenge it.’
Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Deputy Director, said: ‘The UK government blatantly shunned victims’ rights and pushed through a law only it wanted. This heinous Act of wrong must not stand; it is now over to the courts to right this historic wrong.
Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris has said that the controversial legislation is aimed at delivering better outcomes for those most affected by the Troubles while helping society move forward
The Government has described the new act as an attempt to draw a line under the events of the past, such as the Omagh bombing of August 1998
‘The Troubles Act betrays victims in the cruellest way possible, adding to their years of trauma by denying them the truth and justice to which they are entitled. ‘Despite thinly-veiled attempts by the Government to portray the law as an act of reconciliation, it plainly serves to put perpetrators above the law and beyond accountability.
‘The burden of legal challenge must not be shouldered only by victims; the clock is ticking for the Irish government to commit and take an inter-state challenge to the European Court of Human Rights. We urge them to swiftly do so.’
The new law will allow that for anyone who cooperates with investigations run by the ICIR, which will have a £250m budget and a staff of several hundred people. It will be led by retired judge Sir Declan Morgan and will run for five years.
Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris has said that the controversial legislation is aimed at delivering better outcomes for those most affected by the Troubles while helping society move forward.