Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Peter Robinson 'no' to amnesty but won't rule out limited immunity for truth forum

First Minister Peter Robinson remains opposed to a blanket amnesty
First Minister Peter Robinson remains opposed to a blanket amnesty

Peter Robinson has not ruled out a form of limited immunity for those who come forward with information about Troubles murders.

The First Minister said that while he was not averse to a Troubles immunity plan and was open to options, he would oppose any amnesty.

Proposals offering immunity from prosecution in a bid to deal with Northern Ireland's violent past are being considered at the all-party talks chaired by US diplomat Richard Haass in Belfast this week.

"I think we need to look at what he's saying by way of immunity – is that immunity for all time over those actions, or is it a limited immunity, such as we have for instance with the decommissioning legislation?" said Mr Robinson.

"I think we'll look at what the proposition is and judge it when we see the detail."

The DUP leader's reference to the laws created to aid the decommissioning of arms would include how the authorities undertook not to prosecute anyone on the basis of clues left on the weapons themselves.

Other legal guarantees used to help get loyalist and republican weapons put beyond use included permits to allow paramilitaries to move guns without fear of arrest.

But Mr Robinson remains opposed to a blanket amnesty. "We will oppose amnesty," he said.

A paper outlining four models of immunity has been circulated to the parties by academics Dr Kieran McEvoy and Dr Louise Mallinder.

The options range from a unilateral end to prosecutions – as suggested by Attorney General John Larkin – to immunity for individuals in return for information.

A long-running inquiry into the death of an Iraqi civilian, Baha Mousa, could provide the most likely model for a deal from the Haass talks – a truth investigation with immunity from prosecution.

The inquiry had no power to judge any person's criminal or civil liability.

A third model of truth commission and amnesty could investigate individual cases and specific events, examine the causes, context, and consequences of violence. This model is similar to the one used in South Africa.

Finally, a model of truth recovery and prosecution would mean evidence would be gathered using subpoenas and a decision taken at the conclusion of the inquiry on who, if anyone, can be prosecuted.

BACKGROUND

Former US envoy to Northern Ireland Dr Richard Haass is hosting talks aimed at resolving disputes over flags, parades and the past. He will meet each of the five Executive parties three times this week, once on each of the topics he has to consider, and also intends working through the weekend. His deadline is the year end.

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