Belfast Telegraph

Doug Beattie rejects Boris Johnson's pledge to end Troubles prosecutions

Doug Beattie rejected the proposals
Doug Beattie rejected the proposals
Andrew Madden

By Andrew Madden

Ulster Unionist justice spokesperson Doug Beattie has rejected Prime Minister Boris Johnson's pledge to end prosecutions of Troubles veterans.

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Mr Beattie, a former soldier, said the proposals would mean terrorists would also not be brought before the courts.

The Prime Minister announced a raft of measures to support military personnel, veterans and their families.

Under the proposals, the Conservatives would amend the Human Rights Act so it does not apply to issues, such as Troubles killings, which happened before it came into force in 2000.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace denied the plans would effectively be an amnesty for veterans, however he conceded it would apply to everyone, not just former soldiers.

Irish Foreign Affairs minister and Tanaiste Simon Coveney said the move was "concerning" saying there had been an agreed approach on legacy and reconciliation in NI.

"There is no statute of limitations, no amnesty, for anyone who committed crimes in NI. The law must apply to all, without exception, to achieve reconciliation," he said.

Speaking on the BBC's Good Morning Ulster programme, Doug Beattie said no one who committed crimes during the Troubles should be above the law.

"There are many people in England, Scotland and Wales who see Northern Ireland as a distant conflict and they just want to draw a line under it," he said.

"The reality is, what [the Conservatives] are proposing is to draw a line under all prosecutions in Northern Ireland, and that means the terrorists who terrorised our communities, who butchered men woman and children, will get away scot-free and brag about what they did."

He added that he felt the pledge is simply a tool to "suck in votes" ahead of the December General Election and doubted whether it would actually be made into law.

Sinn Fein legacy spokesperson Linda Dillon called on mechanisms included in the 2014 Stormont House Agreement, such as an Historical Investigations Unit to probe Troubles deaths, to be implemented.

“Once again we see proposals being brought forward by the British government to create a de facto amnesty from prosecution for British soldiers who committed offences in Ireland including the murder of Irish citizens," she said.

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Sinn Fein legacy spokesperson Linda Dillon

“Any attempt to create a scenario where current or former British soldiers are given immunity from prosecution on top of the impunity they have enjoyed for decades is unacceptable.

“Mechanisms have been agreed by the two governments and political parties at Stormont House to deal with the legacy of the conflict and those most be implemented and put in place.”

The Conservatives have previously called on legislation to protect Troubles veterans to be introduced, however to date this has not been brought forward.

A publication consultation on the Stormont House proposals found a majority of people are opposed to an amnesty for veterans.

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Ex-CIA chief Gen David Petraeus

Former US General David Petraeus, who led coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the prosecution of veterans was "unfair" and "gravely undermines" the morale of serving troops.

"This has caused enormous stress and anxiety on those who are caught up in investigations, sometimes years or even decades after their combat service," he told the Daily Mail.

"The extent to which those who served decades ago in Northern Ireland, including the highly distinguished soldier-scholar General Sir Frank Kitson, remain exposed to legal risk is striking and appalling."

There are several cases involving Troubles veterans currently going through the courts.

Soldier F is due to go on trial next year accused of two murders and four attempted murders committed on Bloody Sunday in Londonderry in 1972.

Ex-soldier Dennis Hutchings is also to stand trial next year charged with the attempted murder of 27-year-old John Pat Cunningham in Co Tyrone in 1974.

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