Amnesty briefs US politicians on 'dealing with the past' in Northern Ireland

By agency reporter
10 Mar 2014

Amnesty International is to brief US politicians in Washington DC this week on the ongoing failure to adequately investigate past human rights violations and abuses in Northern Ireland, in advance of St Patrick's Day events in the US capital.

Amnesty campaigners are holding a series of meetings with members of the US Congress and Senate, as well as government representatives, to brief them on the failure of the UK Government and the Northern Ireland Executive to put in place effective and independent mechanisms to investigate abuses from three decades of political violence.

Amnesty is calling for US political pressure to help prioritise dealing with Northern Ireland's past and put in place new effective measures to deliver truth and justice. The call comes on the back of the recently concluded round-table talks between the five Northern Ireland Executive parties, chaired by retired US diplomat Dr Richard Haass, which focused on issues including 'dealing with the past', but failed to reach agreement.

Amnesty's Julia Hall will join Dr Haass and Geraldine Finucane in Washington to brief the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Hearing on the Northern Ireland Peace Process and Dealing with the Past on Tuesday 11 March.

On Thursday 13 March, Amnesty’s Alice Wyss will address a Congressional briefing on dealing with the past in Northern Ireland convened by the bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.

Amnesty representatives will also meet with senior government officials to ensure the State Department and the White House is well-briefed on the ongoing failure of Northern Ireland and UK governments to address 'the past' in Northern Ireland in advance of official meetings on Friday between US Government and visiting Ministers from Northern Ireland, the UK and Ireland.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International's Northern Ireland Programme Director, who is in Washington for the briefings, said: “We want the US government to send a clear message to leaders in Belfast, London and Dublin: continued failure is no longer an option.

“The United States has been a powerful ally for peace and justice in Northern Ireland over several decades. Following the failure of the parties to reach agreement during the Haass Talks, it is imperative that US political pressure is brought to bear not just on Northern Ireland leaders, but also the UK and Irish governments who have specific responsibilities to discharge with respect to the past.

“The longer politicians take to deliver new human rights-compliant mechanisms to deal with the past to replace the current failed approach, the longer victims and bereaved family members are being left to suffer a denial of their right to truth and justice.”

Amnesty published a report in September, Northern Ireland: Time to deal with the past, which found that the patchwork system of investigation that has been established in Northern Ireland has proved inadequate for the task of establishing the full truth about human rights violations and abuses committed by all sides during the three decades of political violence. Amnesty has continued to call for a comprehensive mechanism to be set up to review the conflict as a whole, establish the truth about outstanding human rights violations and abuses and determine responsibility.

Amnesty has also called for the implementation of Haass Talks draft agreement on dealing with the past in Northern Ireland, with refinements to ensure human rights compliance. The organisation described the former US diplomat’s proposal as a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” for victims of human rights violations and abuses to secure truth and justice.

[Ekk/4]

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