International lawyers say British Government's controversial Legacy Bill should be withdrawn

International lawyers say British Government's controversial Legacy Bill should be withdrawn

A GROUP of international lawyers has called for the British Government's controversial Legacy Bill to be scrapped.

A delegation from the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy & World Human Rights (ELDH) said they were 'disturbed' by the ramifications of the Bill following a visit to Northern Ireland last year.

They have now joined the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights in calling for Britain to withdraw the Bill.

The Bill, which is making its way through the House of Lords, would offer conditional immunity for those who cooperate with a proposed Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR).

Sinn Féin, which has been highly critical of the Bill, has previously said it would provide amnesty to members of the British armed forces who had 'killed Irish citizens'.

'Legal and political attacks'

Thomas Schmidt, Co-Secretary General of the ELDH, was among the lawyers from Europe, South Africa and the US to visit Northern Ireland during September and October 2022.

He said: "The Delegation was disturbed to hear evidence about the regression of human rights standards in Northern Ireland.

"We are aware that the 25th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement will occur next month.

"Now is the time for the UK Government to urgently commit to realising human rights in Northern Ireland."

During the visit, the delegation held meetings with human rights organisations, victims' groups and legal bodies.

They concluded that the British Government was attempting to unilaterally dismantle the human rights framework of the Good Friday Agreement and voiced concerns regarding 'breaches of international law and human rights'.

The ELDH report said the Bill should be withdrawn (Image: European Association of Lawyers for Democracy & World Human Rights)

"The UK Government should cease its legal and political attacks on the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement (B/GFA)," the ELDH delegation said in its report.

"It is clear to the Delegation that the UK Government is not acting in good faith or fulfilling its role as an honest broker in maintaining the terms of the B/GFA.

"The Legacy Bill should be withdrawn from the Westminster legislative process."

The reported added that Ireland would be entitled to bring a claim for breach of international law to the International Court of Justice against the British Government should the Bill succeed.

"The Irish Government should commit to making an inter-state case in the European Court of Human Rights against the UK Government's Legacy Bill if it becomes law," the report stated.

'Avoiding accountability'

Responding to the report, Sinn Féin MP John Finucane called for the Bill to be scrapped.

"Ultimately, it is in breach of the Good Friday Agreement, and it is incompatible with international human rights obligations," he said.

“This legislation is about; amnesties for British state forces; denying investigation; avoiding accountability and cover-up and shutting down families from ever getting truth and justice."

The delegates plan to submit the report to their respective national associations of human rights lawyers.

Copies will also be submitted to the British, Irish and US Governments, as well as the EU Commission.