Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said tonight that the British government’s release of its amendments to its fundamentally flawed and cruel legacy bill was cynical and was about slamming the door shut to due process for victims of the conflict.
Gerry Kelly said:
“The British government’s timing of this release is a cynical response to the heavy critique of their fundamentally flawed Legacy Bill by the European Committee of Ministers today.
“Its proposed amendments do not deal with the substantive issues in the critique covered by the European Ministers. The amendments are also not in full compliance with the British government’s obligation under the European Convention on Human Rights.
“The proposed new timeframe for concluding inquests will make it more difficult for families to have this most basic investigation into the killings of their loved ones. The new amendment states that conflict-related inquests must conclude by May 1st next year.
“This effectively closes the door in the faces of families looking to make progress in a large number of inquests, given the backlog in disclosure by the PSNI and the lack of resources for this work.
“This amendment is particularly cruel as expectations had been raised among families that once inquests had been opened that they would be concluded.
“This move is cruel, heartless and unprecedented.
“Similarly families will be denied legacy and Police Ombudsman investigations which are similarly being closed down by May 1st next year.
“These cases will be instead transferred to a new Commission, the ICRIR, whose powers will be limited to reviews rather than Article 2 investigations as required under human rights legislation.
“Inquests which have not been concluded by May 1st next year will also be transferred to the ICRIR. This will deny victims and families the opportunity to have direct access and input into the process, deny them the right to legal teams which can cross-examine witnesses, obtain disclosure and relevant documents and provide legal advice.
“This Bill is being rushed through both Houses to become law in six to seven weeks time before Parliament goes into recess on July 26th. It is a travesty, a perversion of the legal process and with the objective of ending citizens’ rights to access due legal process.
“The Irish government needs to stand up to this unilateral action by the British government and call for the legacy mechanisms agreed at Stormont House by the two governments and political parties in 2014 to be implemented in a human rights’ compliant manner.” CRÍOCH/ENDS