AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL has warned that the trial due to start on 28 March of a soldier for a Troubles-related death could be the “last Troubles trial”, as relatives of the victim said every grieving family deserves a chance for justice.

Former Grenadier Guardsman, David Jonathan Holden, will appear at Laganside Courthouse in Belfast and face trial for the manslaughter of Aidan Martin McAnespie on 21 February 1988.

The trial comes ahead of a planned highly controversial bill by the UK Government which would introduce a de facto amnesty for human rights violations committed during the Northern Ireland conflict, including a statute bar on Troubles related prosecutions. The plans have been met with widespread opposition from victims and victims’ groups, Amnesty International, Northern Ireland political parties, the Irish Government, as well as prompting concerns from the US Congress, UN and Council of Europe Commissioner on Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic.

The McAnespie family is calling on the UK Government to abandon these plans and ensure every victim has access to justice.

Grainne Teggart, Northern Ireland Campaigns Manager at Amnesty International UK, said: “This trial represents the due process that the UK Government is seeking to shut down for victims and demonstrates clearly why plans to legislate for a de facto amnesty must not succeed.

“The UK government’s proposals are not only a deeply concerning interference in the justice system, but they have served to shamefully exacerbate the pain felt by victims who have been fighting for decades for truth, justice, and accountability to which all are entitled.

“If the Government succeeds in legislating to permanently deny justice to victims this could be the last ‘troubles’ trial, other families will be blocked from ever achieving justice. It’s hard to imagine a more significant and stark betrayal of victims.”

Sean McAnespie, brother of Aidan McAnespie, said: “Every grieving family deserves a chance for justice. We have been forced to wait in purgatory for the past 34 years without any real opportunity for closure, but you never give up. Aidan was simply on his way to a football match and in an instant, he had his entire life ahead of him snatched away. The passage of time has not diminished the pain of losing Aidan.

“The trial is the justice system having the freedom to do its job. All victims deserve truth, justice and accountability.”

Darragh Mackin, solicitor for the family, said: “This case is the prime example of why there can be no statute of limitation in the context of legacy investigations.

“The family have campaigned for years to ensure that the relevant evidence is placed before a Court of law. Today signifies the light at the end of a dark tunnel, where that evidence will be placed before a Court, and the criminal justice process will now follow. Today is a testament to the McAnespie family’s commitment in ensuring that no stone was left unturned in their quest for truth, justice and accountability for Aidan’s death.”

* Source: Amnesty International