Concerns outstanding on Payment Scheme for Permanently Disabled of the conflict

Relatives for Justice welcomes the announcement that funding will be available for the payments scheme for the permanently disabled of the conlfict. This scheme will assist some of the most vulnerable and harmed of the conflict.

There are however outstanding concerns regarding the scheme and how it will be experienced by people who have experienced significant conflict injury.

Relatives for Justice remains concerned by the potential for discrimination in the scheme for the injured. In particular exclusion of:

  1. Persons injured by “their own hand” as this is not adhering to the 2006 definition. This definition has served the community well as it recognises all bereavement and injury comprehensively. While this is a small number that this legislation shamefully excludes some of the most vulnerable persons in our society, nearly 30 years into a peace process, speaks to political failure;
  2. Bereaved not present at the scene of the killing who suffered psychological injury – this is manifestly unjust[1] and disproportionately affects women bereaved. Due to the nature of the conflict 91% of those killed were male, and women were not at the scenes of the killings. It is unconscionable that an eyewitness or first responder may be eligible to this scheme if they suffered permanent injury but a relative who suffered a psychological injury as a result of their loved one being killed will not.

We are further concerned at the differential process which faces former prisoners who were convicted and sentenced to over 30 months. These applicants will see applications examined by the Board with guidelines established by the Secretary of State. The process for former prisoners, some of whom will be applying due to permanent injuries, up to and including torture, sustained in holding centres and prisons, urgently requires clarification.

Relatives for Justice has asked for clarification on the use of intelligence briefings to the panel regarding individuals. It is further unclear as to how an individual will be informed of such briefings, how they might engage with same and whether there will be recourse to special advocates in closed material proceedings.

There is an urgent need for clarity regarding potential political interventions by the Secretary of State in the process of individual applications. That the Secretary of State might determine the “appropriateness” of applications is deeply concerning.

Overall that such fundamental issues still pertain speaks to the difficulty with legislation designed at Westminster that simply does not engage with the complexity of our post conflict context, or international standards on post conflict reparations.

[1] Statutory Instruments; 2020 No 103.; Payment Scheme; Disabled Persons; The Victims’ Payments Regulations 2020 31st January 2020 6. (1) – (7); 7. (1) a-c