Concerns about Victims Panel

Statement from Relatives for Justice concerning the announcement of a panel to consult on dealing with the past

Director of Relatives for Justice Mark Thompson said:

‘Notwithstanding our respect for, and the individual integrity of, each panel member but the fact is that there is no one on the panel with any experience of human rights, transitional or victims issues. Given that the panel will essentially seek to report on how to address significant matters concerning killings, including systemic human rights violations, the lack of experiential background is an indication of the lack of seriousness with which the British government has taken this issue.

‘Many families are sceptical and believe that like most British contrived initiatives this is more about protecting their own interests rather than dealing with the real and substantive issues. Otherwise the initiative would have had independent terms of reference, included people with relevant experience, been independent and international reporting back to both governments, the Executive and all parties. Importantly it would have also involved victims representatives. Furthermore it is already being used to undermine inquiries and investigations into controversial killings especially involving the British state and its agents and follows a series of public criticisms by the British government, Hugh Orde and a number of his senior officers on inquiries. The irony is that both the PSNI and the British government, in their failings to provide information to inquiries, have contributed to these costs. In our view the latter has unduly influenced the announcement of this panel above and beyond any other concerns. It is in this context that the British government will seek to use the panel as a vehicle to introduce the notion of storytelling as opposed to truth and accountability. This will not be accepted.’

‘Among our concerns are;

  • That the two Chairs of the panel have already expressed publicly their own position on the matter of dealing with the past which is at odds with many victims and survivors – i.e. draw a line under the past and move on;
  • That the remit is not an all-island approach;
  • That in public articles today reference are made by Peter Hain to both republican and loyalists but not the British State’s role in the conflict;
  • That obvious concerns exist that this initiative is both driven by the British government and will report back to the British government – a key participant to the conflict;
  • That the British government have international and domestic human rights obligations regarding upholding victims rights and investigating past abuses – these cannot be arbitrarily abandoned;
  • The British government are seeking to sign off on this issue with more spin than substance;
  • Ultimately it will once again be victims who lose out in this cynical exercise.’

Listen to interview by Director of Relatives for Justice Mark Thompson on BBC Evening Extra regarding today’s announcement of a panel to examine ways of dealing with the past – the interview commences at 5.14pm – the programme began at 5pm