Ban on Troubles prosecutions ‘legally dubious and morally corrupt’, says Hain

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A former Northern Ireland secretary has said the controversial plan to ban prosecution for the Troubles murders is “legally dubious, constitutionally dangerous and morally corrupt”.

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There was sharp criticism at Westminster by Labor peer Lord Hahn as he urged the UK government to reconsider its branding of “a blanket apology”.

After a long-running standoff over Northern Ireland’s turbulent past in Stormont earlier this year, the Tory administration outlined its intention to implement a statute of limitations on crimes committed during the conflict by April 1998. Published a command paper while doing so and it will be applicable to military veterans. As well as former paramilitary forces.


The controversial proposal, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson said would allow Northern Ireland to “draw a line under the troubles”, would also end all heritage inquiries and civil actions related to the bloody period.

In addition, the package of measures included a new truth retrieval body and an oral history initiative.

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But the move has been condemned by all of Northern Ireland’s major political parties, as well as the Irish government and victims and survivors’ groups.

Lord Hahn used the opportunity to raise the issue in Parliament in the second reading of the Northern Ireland (Ministerial, Elections and Petitions of Concern) Bill, which was supposed to protect the division of powers in Stormont by providing greater stability in the event of a fresh political crisis. is designed to.

Lord Hahn (Archive/PA) , PA Archive

Describing the Command Paper as “the most shocking document” in his 50-year political career, Lord Hahn said: “It proposes what exactly is a blanket amnesty that will cover those who have committed some of the most unspeakable atrocities. What can be imagined during that time is still euphemistically called the Troubles.”

He added: “It will stop all court proceedings on offenses involving both criminal and civil troubles.

“This will put all the inquiries which are currently listed for hearing.

“It will say to the suffering and still suffering victims ‘what happened to your loved ones is no longer of interest to the state’.

“And it tells criminals ‘what you did to those victims is no longer in the interest of the state’.

“And this is from a government that intends to respect and uphold the rule of law.

“These proposals are in my view legally questionable, constitutionally dangerous and morally corrupt.

“I am raising this here in an effort to try to get the government to rethink before the bill is brought in Parliament.”

Responding, Lord Kane, the newly-appointed Minister for Northern Ireland, said: “The Government is committed to bringing in legislation to deal with the subject and hopefully very soon.”

Tory Frontbencher, who served as Special Adviser to the six Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland, said: “This will focus on providing better outcomes for victims and survivors, primarily looking at information retrieval.

“But also crucially ending the endless cycle of re-investigation and possible prosecutions of former members of the armed forces.”

The government has previously reported that formerly normal criminal justice procedures in Northern Ireland have been set aside in the interests of peace and reconciliation, including early release of prisoners, restricting prison sentences and covert cessation of paramilitary weapons .


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