The government has announced plans for a statute of limitations which would end all prosecutions of ex-paramilitaries and former members of the security forces in Troubles-related cases in Northern Ireland
Secretary of State Brandon Lewis told the Commons on 14 July that he plans to bring the legislation to Parliament in the autumn.
At a glance: 5 key points
- A statute of limitations is a law that sets the maximum amount of time that parties involved in a dispute have to initiate legal proceedings from the date of an alleged offence, whether civil or criminal
- More than 3,500 people died during the Northern Ireland Troubles, which stretched from the early 1970s to the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement in 1998, while tens of thousands more were injured
- Lewis said his plan for dealing with Northern Ireland’s troubled past also includes a new ‘truth recovery body’ and an ‘oral history initiative’
- Families of those killed by soldiers in west Belfast in 1971 have urged against a statute of limitations on Troubles prosecutions
- Even before the proposals had been announced, victims and political parties had criticised them as a “de facto amnesty”
What’s been said?
Lewis said: “We know that the prospect of the end of criminal prosecutions will be difficult for some to accept and this is not a position we take lightly.
“But we’ve come to the view that this is the best and only way to facilitate an effective information retrieval and provision process, and the best way to help Northern Ireland move further along the road to reconciliation.
“It is in reality a painful recognition of the very reality of where we are.”
The Prime Minister Boris Johnson added: “The sad fact remains that there are many members of the armed services who continue to face the threat of vexatious prosecutions well into their 70s, 80s and later, and we’re finally bringing forward a solution to this problem, to enable the province of Northern Ireland to draw a line under the Troubles, to enable the people of Northern Ireland to move forward.”
A fresh inquest into the deaths of a woman and nine men in Ballymurphy earlier this year found they were “entirely innocent”.
A statement on behalf of the Ballymurphy families said: “We see this as the British Government’s cynical attempt to bring in an amnesty and a plan to bury its war crimes.
“These latest proposals to deny families Article 2-compliant investigations or access to due process of the law will not be tolerated and will be legally challenged.
“This proposed amnesty shows how low the British Government will go, it will help no-one, it is only being put forward for British veterans, they are the only reason they are rushing this through Parliament.”