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Processes to handle Northern Ireland legacy issues not 'adequate'

A UN committee against torture will hear of a need to address human rights abuses of the past, linked to violence during The Troubles.

Riot police wearing helmets and gas masks during disturbances on 13 August 1969.
Riot police wearing helmets and gas masks during disturbances on 13 August 1969.
Image: Peter Kemp/AP/Press Association Images

THE UNITED NATIONS Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) will hear concerns about how Northern Ireland is dealing with legacy issues from The Troubles this week.

The hearings, taking place in Geneva, include a submission from Amnesty International detailing research that shows some of the mechanisms to provide redress to families and victims of past human rights abuses and violations are “inadequate” and “appear unable to deliver fully independent, effective, prompt and thorough investigations”.

Amnesty International says it more generally concerned about the “narrow and particular remit of these mechanisms”, adding “they are simply not able to secure accountability for past human rights violations and abuses”.

“In particular, they do not allow for a broader and more thorough examination of the systemic nature or patterns of the violations and abuses that occurred, the policies, practises and institutional culture of both state agencies and armed groups or the responsibility and role of high-level decision makers.”

The group believes a process needs to be implemented to find a way to comprehensively deal with abuses and violations of the past “to ensure accountability is finally secured”.

As part of its research over the past 12 months, Amnesty has spoken with families, victims and lawyers who have had dealings with the Historical Enquiries Team, the Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland, inquests and other inquiries. A full report is due to be published later this year.

UNCAT is also due to hear from Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission on the issue. The organisation says there is a need for a framework of transitional justice and a need to address human rights abuses committed in the past.

Prison reform, the absence of a statutory definition of restraint, risks for immigrants in Northern Ireland and redress for victims of historical abuse, including 18 former Magdalene Laundry residents, will also be discussed during today and tomorrow’s hearings.

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