Outcome of Malaysian human rights case may block public inquiries into Troubles deaths

Outcome of Malaysian human rights case may block public inquiries into Troubles deaths

AN IRISH human rights centre is to intervene in an ongoing case that may have considerable implications for the North of Ireland.

The Pat Finucane Centre, along with Rights Watch (UK), will intervene in a case examining the alleged massacre by British troops of 24 civilians at the Batanga Kali rubber plantation in Malaysia in 1948.

But it is the question of whether the Human Rights Act 1998 applies to events before it came into force that will be the major issue of concern in Ireland.

If it does not apply it will mean that Britain will not be required to investigate historic killings - meaning hundreds of deaths during the Troubles may be left unresolved.

“If it does not apply then there is no duty for the UK Government to hold an Article 2 compliant investigation into deaths before this date,” explained Yasmine Ahmed, Director of Rights Watch UK.

Under Article 2 the European Convention on Human Rights, which is incorporated into British law by the Human Rights Act, the British Government is prohibited from intentional killing and a proper investigation is required into any deaths caused by the state.

This pertains to hundreds of deaths in the North of Ireland during the Troubles.

John Larkin, the Attorney General of Northern Ireland, has previously spoken out against investigating historic deaths in the North, which Ms Ahmed believes may block the path for further inquiries into the deaths during the Troubles.

“The Attorney General of Northern Ireland is seeking to make submissions to the Supreme Court in an attempt to effectively close the door to public inquiries in historical deaths in Northern Ireland,” she said.

The Pat Finucane Centre was set up in memory of Patrick Finucane, a human rights solicitor that was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries at his home in 1989.

Similar to the Batanga Kali case in Malaysia, the Finucane case predates the Human Rights Act, and therefore the British Government is likely to argue that there is no requirement for any further investigations.

Should it emerge that Britain will not have to investigate any deaths that took place prior to the act being introduced in 1998, it will mean that hundreds of deaths in the North of Ireland will not be subject to public inquiry.

The Batanga Kali case has been on-going since February 2011 and its outcome is expected following a hearing next month.