Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Four plans put forward to deal with Troubles crimes

Controversial: John Larkin
Controversial: John Larkin

PARTIES involved in the Haass talks are considering four possible models for setting aside prosecutions for Troubles-era offences, the Belfast Telegraph has learnt.

This is the despite the almost universal rejection of proposals from John Larkin, the Attorney general, to halt prosecutions.

Last month Mr Larkin (below) used a Belfast Telegraph interview to suggest halting all prosecutions, inquests and inquiries into Troubles-linked attacks carried out before the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998.

Unionists and the SDLP reacted with anger to the suggestion.

The models now being looked at were prepared by Professor Kieran McEvoy of Queen's University Belfast and Dr Louise Mallinder, a reader in International Law at the University of Ulster.

Mr Larkin's idea, Stay On Prosecutions, is the first model examined in the 27-page paper.

The second is A Truth Commission And Amnesty, broadly based on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Sinn Fein favours this.

The third, Truth, Investigation and Use Immunity would compel witnesses to give evidence in return for an undertaking that anything they said could not be used against them.

A fourth proposes witnesses could be open to prosecution.

Dr Mallinder said: "Professor McEvoy and I have, between us, had meetings with all the parties to the talks. We have been asked very detailed questions and this suggests that the ideas are being considered, not dismissed out of hand. If something along these lines is adopted I doubt that the word amnesty will be used."

Jeffrey Donaldson, a Haass negotiator for the DUP, which rejected Mr Larkin's proposals, said: "We have met with Kieran McEvoy and his colleagues and listened to what they have to say. We have made it clear both in public and in private that we are opposed to amnesties for terrorist murder."

However he added "limited immunity is a separate concept".

There have been objections that giving immunity from prosecution might contravene the UK's duties under the Europe and Convention of Human Rights and other international obligations.

The document examines international case law and concludes that granting immunity from prosecution is legally feasible for all models if properly drafted.

It says: "Based on our experience as academics with significant familiarity of working on these issues locally and internationally, it is our view that it is possible to devise a bespoke method of truth recovery which is both technically robust (in terms of maximising the potential for truth) and legally compliant with international and domestic law in the United Kingdom and the Republic."

The project on which the document is based is backed by QUB School of Law, the Transitional Justice Institute at the University of Ulster and group Healing Through Remembering.

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