House of Commons report proposing British soldier immunity from Troubles prosecutions condemned

House of Commons report proposing British soldier immunity from Troubles prosecutions condemned

A WESTMINSTER report calling on the British Government to grant impunity to British soldiers active during the Troubles has been blasted as an “utter betrayal”.

The House of Commons Defence Select Committee said it wants the next British Government to introduce an amnesty for soldiers and police officers who served in Northern Ireland between 1969 and 1998.

The committee’s report encouraged whomever is elected on June 8 to extend the 1998 Good Friday Agreement’s amnesty to ex-paramilitaries "to include former members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and other former security personnel."

Amnesty International said the findings were a betrayal of victims of state violence.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty’s Northern Ireland programme director, said: “The defence committee’s call would in effect be the granting of a blanket amnesty for human rights abuses committed by former members of the security forces in Northern Ireland. It would be an utter betrayal of victims’ fundamental right to justice.”

He added: “All victims of killings and other human rights violations and abuses from Northern Ireland’s recent past have a human right to proper independent investigations, with the possibility of prosecutions to follow where the evidence leads.”

The report, compiled by a cross-party group of MPs, recommended that a statute of limitations be introduced which would bar prosecutions of British soldiers alleged to have carried out crimes including torture and murder.

That recommendation comes as Sinn Féin and the DUP continue to refuse the prospect of a talks agreement to resolve the Stormont crisis in Northern Ireland.

The deadline for a deal between the two parties has now been extended to June 29, after the British election on June 8.

UK charity Rights Watch said the House of Commons report was “deeply concerning”.

Yasmine Ahmed, Director of Rights Watch UK, said: “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.”

According to Rights Watch, British military are estimated to be responsible for 297 deaths in Northern Ireland during the Troubles era.

Overall, more than 3,500 people were killed during the conflict, of whom 52 per cent were civilians, 32 per cent were security force members and 16 per cent loyalist or republican paramilitaries.

In 2012, the then British Prime Minister, David Cameron, apologised in Parliament for the Government’s role in colluding with loyalist paramilitaries in the murder of Belfast solicitor, Patrick Finucane, in 1989.

“The Government is clearly fearful of what investigations and prosecutions into state officials might unearth,” Yasmine Ahmed continued.

“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.”

She added: “It is of the utmost importance that the truth is revealed and justice is served.”

Last year, two retired soldiers became the first members of the British military to be charged with murder in connection with a Troubles-related death.

The pair are facing prosecution over the killing of Official IRA commander John McCann, who was shot dead in central Belfast in 1972.