This week the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, Pablo de Greiff, issued his country report on the UK. The report exclusively focuses on the UK Government’s persistent failure to adequately provide for accountability for conflict related harms in Northern Ireland.
The report comes out ahead of a draft Bill, expected to be published by the government immediately, that will give effect to the Stormont House Agreement, a commitment made between the British and Irish Governments and Northern Ireland political parties in 2014 to establish an overarching transitional justice mechanism to address the legacy of the conflict in Northern Ireland.
De Greiff urges the UK Government to ensure that the new transitional justice mechanism does not replicate the failures of past ad-hoc mechanisms that have been crippled by a lack of access to information, independence and funding. Of particular concern is the use of the ambiguous concept of national security to shield individuals or practices from open scrutiny. With respect to this, de Greiff urged the Government to consider the following recommendations:
“Adjudicating issues concerning disclosure is central to the credibility of truth and justice initiatives. The use of “national security” as a blanket term should be avoided in order to make transparent past practices that were, retrospectively, illegal under national and international law and of dubious effectiveness in furthering security. The Special Rapporteur encourages the Government to work with academic and non-governmental experts to devise an approach that makes disclosure practices human rights and constitutionally compliant.”
De Greiff also highlights the persistent failure to address gender harms and the impact of the conflict on women. He notes with concern that the gender-related impact of violations and abuses has been completely ignored and recommends a more sustained and thorough analysis of ways in which the impact of violations and abuses manifests itself in the lives of women.
Yasmine Ahmed, Director of Rights Watch (UK) said:
“It is critical that the Government takes heed of the comments made by the UN Special Rapporteur and presents a Bill that will implement the commitments of the Stormont House Agreement in a manner that genuinely provides for accountability and access to the truth, and takes account of the gender-related impact of the conflict.
“As has been highlighted by the Special Rapporteur, one of the critical issues that will determine the success of the overarching transitional justice mechanism, and is crucial to ensuring that the bereaved families can finally access justice, is adequate disclosure of information. The Government must not hide behind the veil of national security and in so doing undermine the legitimacy and effectiveness of these new mechanisms.
“For there to be genuine accountability and justice, the Government must also ensure that the new mechanisms do not again marginalize women and gender-related harms as occurred in previous processes. As noted by the Special Rapporteur, the gender-related dimension of violations and abuses committed during the Troubles deserves sustained and thorough analysis and integration into policy making. For this to happen, a gender-focused and gender-sensitive approach must be incorporated into the mechanisms.
This is a unique moment in history, and a time for the UK Government to right the wrongs of the past and to finally establish an overarching mechanism that is human rights complaint and genuinely provides for accountability.”
Please contact Yasmine Ahmed, Director of Rights Watch (UK) at firstname.lastname@example.org for any further information.