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Families of Troubles victims write open letter to British Government slamming 'violation of human rights'

Published 10/12/2015

The full page newspaper advert which victims of the Northern Ireland Troubles have taken out to accuse the Government of a shameful failure to address the legacy of the conflict. Irish News/PA Wire
The full page newspaper advert which victims of the Northern Ireland Troubles have taken out to accuse the Government of a shameful failure to address the legacy of the conflict. Irish News/PA Wire

One-hundred-and-fifty families who lost loved ones or were injured in The Troubles have accused the British Government of an "abject failure" to investigate the deaths.

It comes as a response to last month's crisis talks at Stormont, which ended with the Fresh Start agreement being produced.

But political parties failed to break the impasse over toxic legacy issues remaining from The Troubles.

New mechanisms for tackling the past had been agreed by politicians last year - in the Stormont House Agreement - but they have since been derailed by a row between Sinn Fein and the UK Government.

The root of the impasse is the Government's insistence on retaining a veto, on national security grounds, over disclosing certain historic documents on Troubles killings.

The campaign groups slammed this in their open letter branding it "unacceptable".

The Pat Finucane Centre (PFC) and Justice for the Forgotten together took out a full page advertisement in the Irish News.

In a statement they said the letter was a sign of the "anger, frustration and bitter disappointment felt by over 150 bereaved families at the abject failure of the politicians and British government to implement the legacy proposals set out in the Stormont House Agreement (SHA)".

It said: "It is completely unacceptable that no process has yet been established in which families can have confidence.

"Such a process MUST be sufficiently independent within the terms of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Shamefully, the British government is currently in ongoing violation of the Convention.

First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness sign the copy of the document 'A Fresh Start - The Stormont Agreement and Implementation Plan' pictured at Stormont Castle.
Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness sign the copy of the document 'A Fresh Start - The Stormont Agreement and Implementation Plan' pictured at Stormont Castle. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

"This breach is intolerable and calls into question public confidence in the credibility of the other institutions set up by the Good Friday Agreement (the Stormont Assembly, the power-sharing Executive and the accountability mechanisms over the PSNI)."

The PFC’s Paul O’Connor said further action is being planned.

"The anger and hurt expressed by bereaved families today is the tip of a very large iceberg", he said.

"Families, whether Catholic or Protestant, from both communities, in the privacy of their own homes, are both angry and grieving.

He continued: "This is not an insolvable impasse. With goodwill, common sense and respect for international legal standards, the legitimate wish of families to the truth they so earnestly desire, and deserve, can be achieved.

"They, and we, appeal to every concerned member of the public – and all politicians – to renew their efforts to reach agreement on how to investigate the past.

"Now is the time to set the truth free."

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