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Murderers should not get blanket amnesty, says FW de Klerk

Published 20/10/2015

Former South African president FW de Klerk said he was 'glad we did not give blanket amnesty to faceless people'
Former South African president FW de Klerk said he was 'glad we did not give blanket amnesty to faceless people'

Cold-blooded murderers should not get a blanket amnesty from prosecution, the leader who oversaw South Africa's emergence from apartheid said.

Historical structures to help victims of Northern Ireland's conflict receive information about past killings are due to be established as part of the Stormont House Agreement. But the British Government has said it will not countenance any form of amnesty for those suspected of criminal behaviour.

A Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa gave an amnesty if the perpetrators of crimes could prove they were motivated by politics and made a full confession, former South African president FW de Klerk said.

"I am more a supporter of amnesty up to a point but for cold-blooded, premeditated murder or assassination I personally felt amnesty should not be given.

"Settling the past is fundamental for any negotiation process, it becomes more difficult to agree on the past than it is to agree on the future."

A Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) of independent detectives is due to be established in Northern Ireland as part of the stalled Stormont House Agreement between the British and Irish governments and political leaders in Belfast.

A separate organisation, the Independent Commission on Information Retrieval (ICIR), will be established to enable people to seek and privately receive information about the Troubles-related deaths of their next of kin. The information will be inadmissible in criminal and civil proceedings.

Mr De Klerk visited Queen's University Belfast recently.

He said: "Amnesty in some or other form I think is a prerequisite to make a new beginning and start reconciliation."

He drew a distinction between violent premeditated crimes for which there could be no amnesty and other offences such as membership of an outlawed organisation.

Mr De Klerk legitimised the African National Congress (ANC), the political organisation representing most South Africans, as well as its armed wing.

He recalled: "For little things like being a member of a banned organisation, that was a blanket amnesty, but for real crime no blanket amnesty; a semi-judicial procedure before you can get amnesty.

"I am glad we did not give blanket amnesty to faceless people."

He acknowledged circumstances differed from country to country.

"The philosophy in which I believe is to be as inclusive as possible in negotiations, and moving things forward and to find a way of dealing with the past, but not to allow the past to put brakes on what needs to be done for the future."

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