AMNESTY International has called on the Irish government to take the UK to court to overturn its Troubles Legacy Bill if passed into law.
The bill passed through the House of Commons yesterday afternoon and is due to return to the House of Lords on September 13 where it is also expected to be passed.
Describing the development as a “dark day for justice”, Amnesty International UK’s Northern Ireland Deputy Director, Grainne McTeggart said “it will now be over to the courts to right this historic wrong”.
“Despite huge opposition, the UK government is pushing through a law that does nothing but absolve those responsible for conflict-related abuses - and shamefully, all under the guise of reconciliation,” she said.
“It is outrageous that the UK government has so dismissively betrayed victims - only adding to their long-standing trauma with a law they so overwhelmingly rejected.
“It will now be over to the courts to right this historic wrong,” she added.
“Victims must not shoulder the burden of legal challenge alone.
“The Irish government must now follow through with their opposition to this bill and make a firm and unequivocal commitment to take an interstate case.
“All eyes are on their next move.”
Earlier this week, as the bill returned to Westminster, the human rights organisation lit up parliament with the faces of the victims of the conflict in Northern Ireland.
Under the bill, investigations and inquests into Troubles-era crimes and killings will no longer take place.
Instead, the legislation offers conditional immunity for those who cooperate with a proposed Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR).
Among the victims whose faces were projected onto parliament by Amnesty International UK this week was Majella O’Hare, who was shot dead by a British soldier in county Armagh when she was just 12 years old.
Speaking after the bill passed through the Commons, her brother Michael O’Hare said: “The Government has abandoned victims in favour of protecting those who took the lives of our loved ones.
“There are no words to express how deep that betrayal cuts.
“It is not right for the Government to decide who gets justice for serious crimes such as murder and who doesn’t.”
He added: “I will continue to fight - the lives of our loved ones mattered. This isn’t over.”
Politicians across Ireland responded with anger and frustration after the bill passed through parliament yesterday.
Sinn Féin's John Finucane said “the British Government's flawed and irredeemable Legacy Bill has always only been about one thing — closing the door on families ever getting truth and justice”.
The DUP's Emma Little-Pengelly claimed the bill is an attempt to "airbrush the past".
"Granting immunity to those responsible for some of the most horrific violence and human rights abuses is not only an affront to justice but the latest in a series of bitter blows handed down to innocent victims of terrorism and their families," the Lagan Valley MLA said.
The Taoiseach has confirmed that the Irish government is now taking legal advice regarding action that can be taken if the bill is passed into law.
Speaking at an event in Wicklow yesterday afternoon, he said: “The Irish Government’s position has been very clear on this all along: we think this is a mistake, this is the wrong way to go about dealing with legacy issues in Northern Ireland.”
"There aren’t many things that all of the five main parties in Northern Ireland agree on but they all agreed this is wrong, and this is not victim centred and not human rights proofed.
He added: “What we’re doing now is assessing legal advice.
“The Attorney General’s preparing some legal advice on what the strength would be of us taking a case to the European Court on Human Rights, essentially saying that this Bill, this act is not compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights, of which United Kingdom is a signatory.
“I will make a decision on whether or not we pursue a case in the coming weeks.”