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Immunity provisions ‘incompatible with ECHR’
Pic: RollingNews

28 Feb 2024 / human rights Print

Immunity provisions ‘incompatible with ECHR’

The High Court in Belfast has ruled that certain provisions of the British Government’s legislation on the legacy of the Troubles are incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The case was taken by relatives of victims and the survivor of a shooting.

The legislation, enacted last September, will create a new independent body called the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR), and offer immunity from prosecution for individuals who co-operate with it.

Delivering judgment, however, Mr Justice Colton said that the provisions of the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act 2023 relating to immunity from prosecution breached the ECHR.

'No say' for victims

He also found that parts of the legislation were incompatible with the Northern Ireland Protocol and Windsor Framework agreed between Britain and the EU after Brexit.

“If an applicant for immunity meets the criteria, the ICRIR must grant immunity. The victims have no role or say in these decisions,” the judge stated.

“There is no evidence that the granting of immunity under the 2023 act will in any way contribute to reconciliation in Northern Ireland; indeed, the evidence is to the contrary,” he added.

ICRIR 'independent'

The court found, however, that the ICRIR was sufficiently independent to meet the criteria laid down by the ECHR.

“I fully understand the opposition to the new scheme and the reasons for it,” Mr Justice Colton stated.

He added, however, that he could not say that the new system could not provide an investigation that was compliant with articles 2 and 3 of the ECHR.

“Should it fall short of its obligations under article 2/3, then I have no doubt that they will be subject to the scrutiny of the court,” he said.

The Irish Government lodged a legal challenge against Britain with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) earlier this year over the legislation.

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