No impunity for state violence in Northern Ireland

Rights Watch (UK) calls on the Government to immediately reject the Defence Committee’s calls to impose a statute of limitations 

The House of Commons Defence Select Committee issued a deeply concerning report today that called on the UK Government to grant impunity to British soldiers who committed abuses during the three decades of violence in Northern Ireland and recommended that the same impunity be extended to other security personnel. Rights Watch (UK) calls on the Government to immediately and unequivocally reject this recommendation, which would place the United Kingdom in direct breach of its domestic and international obligations.

The Defence Committee suggested that a statute of limitations be introduced which would bar prosecutions of British soldiers, and potentially all UK security personnel, who are alleged to have carried out crimes including torture and murder during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Yasmine Ahmed, Director of Rights Watch (UK) commented,

“The Government must immediately reject the suggestion that impunity should be granted for actions committed during the Troubles. The Government must uphold its domestic and international obligations, carry out effective investigations and pursue prosecutions where there is sufficient evidence, whether they concern state or non-state actors.”

The British military are believed to be responsible for an estimated 297 deaths in Northern Ireland. A review carried out by Sir Desmond de Silva found that 85% of the intelligence relied upon by the UDA, a loyalist paramilitary group, originated from sources within the UK’s security services. In 2012, the then British Prime Minister, David Cameron, stood in Parliament and apologized for the Government’s role in colluding with loyalist paramilitaries in the murder of Belfast solicitor, Patrick Finucane, in 1989.

Ahmed continued:

“The Government is clearly fearful of what investigations and prosecutions into state officials may unearth. For several years the Government has used a number of tactics, including withholding information from investigatory bodies and failing to provide adequate resources, to ensure that the truth remains buried. It is of utmost importance that the truth is revealed and justice is served.

In 2014 the UK Government committed to establishing an overarching transitional justice mechanism to address the conflict in Northern Ireland. It must now fulfil its promise and establish a genuinely independent as well as human rights compliant mechanism which provides for long awaited truth, accountability and justice for those who suffered at the hands of state and non-state actors.  Anything less would be a flagrant violation of our core values and commitments.”


For more information contact Yasmine Ahmed (Director) on (+44) 0203 6030 972 or


You Might Also Like