Belfast Telegraph

Call to widen historic abuse probe

Historic abuse allegations not covered by the remit of an ongoing public inquiry in Northern Ireland must still be thoroughly investigated, a UN body has urged.

The recommendation by the UN Committee Against Torture will add further pressure on the Stormont Executive to widen the remit of its Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry.

Clerical abuse victims and some former residents of Magdalene laundry-type institutions in the region have demanded to know why the crimes inflicted on them are not being examined by the Stormont commissioned investigation headed by retired judge Sir Anthony Hart.

The inquiry, which is currently gathering victim testimony, is examining alleged child abuse perpetrated inside residential institutions from 1922 to 1995.

However, the probe's remit does not cover abuse inflicted on victims who were over 18 when they were inside residential facilities, such as woman forced into Magdalene style laundries, or clerical abuse committed outside of an institutional setting.

The Committee Against Torture, in its latest report examining how the UK is complying with UN conventions, expressed concern at the apparent exclusions, saying: "While welcoming the establishment in May 2012 of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry, which will investigate the experiences of abuse of children in residential institutions in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1995, the Committee regrets that some victims, such as women over 18 who were confined in Magdalene Laundries and equivalent institutions, as well as clerical abuse survivors, will fall outside the remits of the inquiry."

"The Committee recommends that the State party conduct prompt, independent and thorough investigations into all cases of institutional abuse that took place in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1995, including women over 18 who were detained in Magdalene Laundries and equivalent institutions in Northern Ireland, and ensure that, where possible and appropriate, perpetrators are prosecuted and punished, and that all victims of abuse obtain redress and compensation, including the means for as full rehabilitation as possible..."

A total of 12 Magdalene-style laundries were set up across Northern Ireland where unmarried mothers were coerced into giving up their children and forced to work for free under appalling conditions.

Amnesty International has backed a victims' campaign for the inquiry's remit to be extended. Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland programme director of Amnesty International said:"Now that the United Nations has echoed the call by Amnesty International for the Northern Ireland Executive to establish inquiries into these human rights abuses, it becomes unimaginable for the First Minister (Peter Robinson) and Deputy First Minister (Martin McGuinness) not to respond," he said.

"We are due to meet Ministers in the coming weeks and we will be urging them to take prompt action to meet fully the recommendations of the UN Committee."

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