European Court Criticises British Government on Victims’ Rights – Again!

Irati Oleaga Aiesta

RFJ welcomes the strong message of the Committee of Ministers to the UK Government: it is time to adhere to international human rights obligations and the rule of law

Meeting after meeting, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe sends a strong message to the UK Government to adhere to and comply with its international legal obligations, as requested by RFJ and other NGOs submission after submission. The Committee, which is the decision-making body of the Council of Europe and examines the execution of judgments made by the European Court of Human Rights in a series of cases in which the British State has been found to have committed human rights violations, has published its latest decisions this week; a set of decisions that would and should embarrass any government that proclaims to be democratic and pro-human rights.

After the 1428th meeting held in Strasbourg this week, the Committee of Ministers echoed our deep concern about the lack of progress of the Government in upholding the rights of victims and survivors as well as meeting the subsequent obligations of the UK Government, both regarding individual and general measures. The Committee strongly criticised this Tory Government’s change of approach and departure from the Stormont House Agreement. The Ministers also denounced the ongoing delay and continued lack of detail on how the British authorities intend to ensure that effective independent investigations into outstanding legacy cases are enacted in a timely, adequate and sufficient manner, since compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights in this matter is imperative.

An absence of human rights underpinned the conflict that caused so much harm. Dealing comprehensively with past human rights violations within a legally compliant human rights framework for all those bereaved and injured is a prerequisite to enabling those most harmed to heal, recover, and to play their part in reshaping and rebuilding not only their lives but society too. If done right, it can also assist wider reconciliation. Truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence must be at the centre of the process RFJ is embarked in if we are to provide redress to victims and create opportunities for the transformation of the political system and conflict that have been at the root of the abuses.

Thus, RFJ has made several submissions to the Committee of Ministers and other international human rights bodies regarding the ongoing failure by the British State to ensure that victims of our conflict will receive human rights compliant investigations into the killings of their loved ones. We understand that only consistent international scrutiny is likely to encourage the UK Government to implement its international human rights obligations in respect of legacy issues. We therefore welcome the decision of the Committee, as well as its ongoing scrutiny of the UK’s record. Without this, the own approach of British authorities to dealing with their actions would undermine the rule of law and respect for international human rights.

The Committee of Ministers will resume its consideration in September 2022, after the deadline for the UK Government to submit its legally compliant proposals by 1st of August 2022. In their absence, Strasbourg has instructed the Secretariat to prepare a draft interim resolution to be considered at the Committee’s 1443rd meeting. The full decision of the Committee of Ministers can be found here.