Council of Europe rebukes UK over plan to give immunity to Troubles suspects

Council of Europe rebukes UK over plan to give immunity to Troubles suspects

The Council of Europe has rebuked the UK over a plan to grant conditional immunity to people accused of murder and other crimes during the Northern Ireland Troubles.

The body, which oversees the European Court of Human Rights ECHR on Friday, accused the government of not consulting stakeholders and expressed concern over the intention to pull the plug on inquests.

It said it would make a formal request to the UK for more information about the Northern Ireland Troubles legacy and reconciliation bill, which was included in Queen's speech last month and required an answer by August 1st.

The legislation faced another setback when Keir Starmer confirmed that Labour would oppose it. The Labour leader said that they would vote against the legislation because it doesn't have the support of any political parties in Northern Ireland.

It doesn't have the support of the victims groups here in Northern Ireland, some of whom have told me they haven't even been consulted. It hasn't received the support of the Irish government. The intervention cast doubt on the fate of legislation, which may be opposed by rebel Conservative MPs.

Most of the 3,500 deaths during the Troubles have been unsolved, leaving a backlog of legacy cases that have been bedevilled politics and policing in Northern Ireland.

Downing Street initially planned to introduce a blanket amnesty that was widely viewed as an attempt to shield security force veterans from prosecution, leaving victims families without any hope of truth or justice.

After an outcry, the government made immunity conditional on cooperation with a new Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery, calling it the best way to give victims and their families answers while giving security force veterans certainty.

Existing inquests and civil rights cases could proceed as normal if they had substantive hearings, while less advanced and future Troubles-related cases would be included in the reconciliation and information recovery process.

The Council of Europe said that any legislation must comply with the European Convention on Human Rights and allow effective investigations into all outstanding cases.

It expressed concern over the plan to terminate some pending inquests and expressed concern over the lack of formal public consultation on the draft legislation. It requested further information to determine if the legislation would be compatible with the UK's obligations under the European convention.

The Council of Europe expressed concern over shortcomings in the UK's investigations into killings by security forces in Northern Ireland in the 1980s and 90s and has become increasingly concerned over what it sees as the UK s failure to enforce ECHR rulings requiring effective investigations into killings during the Troubles.