Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Decommissioned arms to stay secret

Canadian general John de Chastelain headed the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning
Canadian general John de Chastelain headed the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning

A full inventory of arms decommissioned by paramilitaries during the peace process will not be made public, the body which oversaw the process has decided.

The detailed files on all the guns, munitions and explosives put beyond use by groups such as the IRA, UDA and UVF will instead be held by the US State Department in Washington, said the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD).

The move was revealed in the final report of the IICD which was published by the British and Irish governments.

The commission said part of its rationale for keeping the information under wraps was to avoid discouraging future acts of decommissioning.

The last document produced by the commissioners reflected on its work since it was first set up in 1997.

In that period the IICD, led by retired Canadian general John de Chastelain, facilitated the destruction of arsenals belonging to all militant organisations on ceasefire.

Although a marginalised band of extremists continue to target the peace process using terrorism, the IICD's job was to facilitate disarmament among those groups which had renounced violence, not persuade those still intent on conflict.

While there is no inventory in the final report, it does provide an account of decommissioning events, a summary of key factors that enabled the commission to deliver its objectives and highlights the lessons learnt.

After placing a copy of the report in Westminster's library, Northern Ireland Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Paterson said: "The commission's remit was to provide a mechanism, entirely independent of government, to execute the decommissioning of paramilitary arms in a manner that rendered them permanently inaccessible or unusable.

"The task was difficult and the commissioners worked tirelessly to achieve it. There is no doubt that their independence and high level of commitment were crucial in gaining the confidence of paramilitary organisations. The resulting major acts of decommissioning they secured have contributed to making Northern Ireland a more peaceful, stable and inclusive society," he said.

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