Ireland brings legal action against UK under European Convention on Human Rights

World

The Irish government is to bring a legal case against the UK under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The inter-state case is over the UK’s decision to bring in the Northern Ireland Troubles Legacy Act, deputy premier Micheal Martin has confirmed.

The act became UK law in September 2023. It looks to end legal proceedings relating to the Troubles by granting immunity to people who cooperate with the new Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR).

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On the UK side, the move was welcomed by soldiers and their families, following various historical prosecutions.

But there were warnings it would breach the ECHR as granting amnesties has previously been found by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) to be incompatible with a country’s obligation to have a way for unnatural deaths and allegations of torture to be investigated.

Complying with the ECHR is part of the Good Friday Agreement.

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Mr Martin said the decision was made “after much thought and careful consideration”.

He added: “I have consistently adopted a victims-centred approach to this issue. We are not alone in our concerns.

“Serious reservations about this legislation have also been raised by a number of international observers, including the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“Most importantly, this legislation is opposed by people in Northern Ireland, especially the victims and families who will be most directly impacted by this act.

“In particular, we have concerns around provisions which allow for the granting of immunity, and which shut down existing avenues to truth and justice for historic cases, including inquests, police investigations, Police Ombudsman investigations, and civil actions.

“Even in cases in which immunity is not granted,’reviews’ by the proposed body, the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery are not an adequate substitute for police investigations, carried out independently, adequately, and with sufficient participation of next of kin.”

When the act was passing through parliament, the UK’s Northern Ireland Office said it believed the law was in compliance with the ECHR.

This was due to the immunity being matched with the investigatory power of the ICRIR.

The UK government stated at the time that “there is some support for the concept of amnesties in ECtHR jurisprudence, which recognises that the use of an amnesty can further the objective of reconciliation”.

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