Letter to media re SPAD Bill by Director Mark Thompson

Mark Thompson

During the course of the conflict the state consistently acted outside of the rule of law, including in contravention of international humanitarian law, in taking hundreds of lives. The majority of those killed were uninvolved civilians including scores of women and children. Of the combatants killed many were unarmed. Of those armed we know that ample opportunity for safe and effective arrest within the rule of law existed in quite a number of instances yet they were killed.


The state used its sovereignty as a shield to protect those responsible and ultimately its political and military policy objectives that included the use of lethal force; extra-judicial killings; summary executions; shoot-to-kill; and collusion yet no one was held to account. Collusion claimed hundreds of lives.


The state constructed the legislative framework that governed the entire criminal justice system that enabled the administration of impunity to those who wore uniforms, its agents, and those within the corridors of power who designed these policies and provided the official lies. The official position regarding the overwhelming majority of direct state killings is that of ‘justifiable homicide’. The impunity that accompanied this violence was a purely political act and has its origins in the Frank Kitson era of the early 1970’s.


Such was the scale of illegality within UDR that it was eventually disbanded. A significant number of former RUC, including Special Branch, are back within the policing system and its mechanisms for dealing with legacy killings. They are effectively circumventing any attempt to examine collusion and state killings. The policy of impunity continues.


The current Special Advisors bill being passed through the Assembly ignores totally this reality despite many former members of the UDR and RUC working within the Assembly and civil service.


The de Silva report states that 85 percent of all intelligence going to loyalist paramilitaries, at a time when they were killing more people than republicans, was coming from the ‘security’ and intelligence agencies. The bill also ignores the fact that many senior civil servants worked alongside the various ‘security’ and intelligence services within Stormont and the NIO.


So in keeping with the logic of the bill why then should only those loyalists and republicans convicted of offences be the subject of this bill?


Why does it not take into account the wider macro problem and simply say that any person connected to any grouping or agency involved in illegality during the conflict should be subject to the bill irrelevant of whether or not they were convicted?


The key question is why should those who availed of impunity be treated differently when the logical demand is that they should now face the same rigors of the law applied to those who were convicted?


Why should the needs of those victims who had prosecutions be considered above and beyond those who had no prosecutions and who had to also endure impunity and its legacy?


There is a very strong and legitimate argument that the violence deliberately perpetrated by a state and for which impunity is granted is much worse.


The reality is that the proposed bill is a process of selective lustration in the absence of a truth recovery process. It also violates enshrined rights. If the Assembly wants to apply lustration then they need to do so across the broad range of actors and institutions to the conflict instead of being politically selective.


This bill will, whether by intention or not of those adding their support to it, define the hurt and pain caused by some combatants to the conflict as being more important than that of those of us who experienced state violence and collusion.


The bill is divisive beyond the political make-up of our society and in part is connected to recreating a hierarchy of victimhood without truth or examination of our past. The proposer of the bill is an opponent to truth when concerning the state, oftentimes seeking to vilify victims of the state with odious comments.


The bill is a direct consequence of the failure to independently deal with the past in an inclusive and holistic way and as such should not be progressed in isolation to a wider process of inclusive truth recovery.


Ideally this issue should be the opportunity to now convene meaningful and substantive discussions on how best we deal with the past.


Mark Thompson


Relatives for Justice