Background to Relatives for Justice

Established in 1991 by relatives of people killed in the conflict Relatives for Justice (RfJ) is an Irish based human rights NGO providing holistic support services to the bereaved and injured of the conflict.

Initially established by relatives of people killed by British soldiers, members of the RUC and by loyalist non-state actors, including in circumstances where collusion with state forces is suspected, RfJ today provides support to the bereaved and injured of all the actors to the conflict on an inclusive and non-judgemental basis. RfJ aims to provide appropriate therapeutic and developmental based support for the bereaved and injured of the conflict within a safe environment. It seeks to examine and develop transitional justice and truth recovery mechanisms assisting with individual healing, contributing to positive societal change, ensuring the effective promotion and protection of human rights, social justice, and reconciliation in the context of an emerging participative democracy post conflict.

RfJ has supported its members and clients as they negotiate various legal and investigative mechanisms dealing with their loss. This has involved:

  • documentation and analysis of information related to incidents;
  • publishing case studies putting information in the public domain;
  • developing strategic litigation;
  • referring families to qualified solicitors for legal advice;
  • accompanying families to attend trials, hearings, inquests and other legal processes;
  • supporting families and clients in engagement with investigative mechanisms such as criminal investigations by the Police Service of NI (PSNI), case reviews by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET), investigations into complaints against the police by the Office of the Police Ombudsman of NI (OPONI);
  • supporting families in making applications for fresh inquests;
  • providing public commentary on clients’ and families’ perspectives;
  • informing the international community of the difficulties involved in holding the British state and its agencies to account for the deaths it has caused or facilitated.

Equally, and just as importantly, RfJ provides an holistic support package which includes therapeutic support, counselling, complementary therapies, and art therapy.

The organisation provides a range of support classes and activities for families and the injured and carers including painting, quilting, gardening, creative writing and personal development. All of which are designed and run to support individuals and groups to reconnect with the living and develop positive and healthy responses to the effects of trauma.

This integrated approach to recovery draws on international best practice and in particular the approaches of Dr Judith Herman and Dr David Becker.

Relatives for Justice has also developed a gender analysis to all of its work, recognising that men and women who have experienced the same events may well have experienced it differently and may require different support strategies for recovery and for engagement in truth recovery and justice mechanisms.

As such truth recovery, pursuit of justice and acknowledgement, reparations and trauma support is impossible to separate as essential parts of recovery for victims and survivors. They inter-link and rely on each other and only then can effective and equal participation of victims and survivors be secured in transition.