Alliance Leader Naomi Long MLA has told the Secretary of State the briefing to media about UK Government plans to rule out future prosecutions in Troubles-related cases showed a “callous and cavalier attitude” towards the victims and survivors of the Troubles.
Mrs Long made the comments to Brandon Lewis during a meeting today ahead of the Queen’s Speech tomorrow, when it is believed legislation will be announced on legacy cases. Last week’s briefing to press sources indicated the intention was to abandon the Stormont House Agreement in favour of a process which would prevent future prosecutions for offences committed by soldiers or terrorists before the Good Friday Agreement.
“The main consequence of such a move by the UK Government would be to deny victims the right to justice even where sufficient evidence to pursue prosecutions is available,” she said.
“Whilst we have always recognised with the passage of time justice will not be possible for many families, it is of profound concern even where it is possible the Government would seek to deny victims the right to pursue justice.
“To effectively trail a de facto amnesty via press briefings instead of engaging directly with the families and their representatives shows a callous and cavalier attitude from the Government towards the continuing anguish and grief of many families. Whilst the Secretary of State and his officials have distanced themselves from that briefing, it is nothing short of disgraceful that part of Government would behave in such an insensitive and disrespectful manner towards victims.
“From our meeting, it is clear while the details contained in the briefing may not have emanated from the NIO and are far from fully developed, it nevertheless accurately reflected the Government’s abandonment of the Stormont House Agreement, which had the backing of both Governments and most local parties. While imperfect, we made it clear it remains in our view the most viable way forward to deal with legacy here.
“That comprehensive approach, consistent with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, treats everyone as equal under the law and does not allow anyone to escape justice on the whims of a Government who are increasingly shaping their entire approach to legacy driven by an entirely false narrative of “vexatious” prosecution of veterans.
“Furthermore, in order to deliver protection for military personnel, the Government is willing to make equivalence between soldiers and terrorists, neither of which would be held to account for their actions. That is not just offensive to victims, but also to the all those who served in the security forces with dignity and honour, and crucially, within the law.”