Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein to oppose amnesty for British forces - 'no one is above the law'

Sinn Fein's Linda Dillon
Sinn Fein's Linda Dillon

Sinn Fein will oppose any attempt to introduce an amnesty for British soldiers involved in killings during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

The comments come after Conservative MP Johnny Mercer wrote a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May saying he would no longer support her government's legislative actions-save for Brexit- until new laws are put in place protecting British soldiers from prosecution over historical allegations.

Linda Dillon, Sinn Fein's victim spokesman, said: “Any attempt to introduce an amnesty for British forces who killed Irish citizens would totally undermine the proposed new legacy mechanisms agreed at Stormont House.

“No one is above the law, all victims and survivors should have the same access to processes of truth and justice, there can be no immunity or impunity for British forces guilty of crime, collusion and murder in Ireland.

“The mechanisms agreed at Stormont House by the five main parties and the two governments must be implemented in human rights compliant manner enabling legislation that would meet the needs of families.

“Sinn Féin will continue to support the families in their pursuit of truth and justice.”

DUP East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson said Mr Mercer's actions were "another sign" of frustration among MPs that elderly veterans are being hauled through police interview with little or no support.

"Everyone should be equal under the law and equally subject to the law. We do not favour amnesties for anyone. 

"The On-The-Run letters were an utter corruption of justice as was the decision to throw open the prison doors and release people convicted of heinous crimes.

"Soldiers who were previously investigated should not be reinvestigated unless there is new evidence.  The MoD should also ensure that these, mostly pensioners, receive a defence fund so they can be properly represented."

Mr Mercer, who is a former army officer, said he was not prepared to vote for Government legislation until the Government took "clear and concrete steps" to end the "abhorrent process" of soldiers being prosecuted for historic allegations.

"You will not meet a serving soldier who does not believe that those who break the law on operations should be prosecuted," he said in his letter to the Prime Minister.

"But these repeated investigations with no new evidence, the macabre spectacle of elderly veterans being dragged back to Northern Ireland to face those who seek to re-fight the conflict through other means without any protection from a Government who sent them almost 50 years ago, is too much."

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said:  "We owe a debt of gratitude to the heroism and bravery of our armed forces.

"The issue of prosecutions of veterans is one we take extremely seriously and the PM is fully aware of the strength of feeling on this, both in Parliament and among the public.

"In relation to Northern Ireland prosecutions, we have been clear the system to investigate the past needs to change to provide better outcomes for victims and survivors of the Troubles and to ensure members of our armed forces are not disproportionately affected.

"This is why we have consulted widely on the system. There are a very large number of responses to that consultation and we will be responding to those in due course."

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