Currently we have a situation whereby the discredited HET is in suspension following the HMIC report that found it to be both partial and illegal in law concerning its ‘investigations’ into state killings.
The HMIC findings vindicated the RFJ position and analysis of the perfunctory approach of the HET in that regard. We further believe that this deliberately flawed approach extends to collusion killings also examined by the HET where clear thematic issues would expose policies of collusion pursued by successive British governments and state agencies. This has especially been the case concerning the importation of weapons by MI5 via Brian Nelson to loyalists and the dissemination of thousands of RUC and British Army intelligence files for the purposes of targeting nationalists and republicans from the period of the conflict from 1987 onwards.
RFJ conducted a series of consultation meetings with families post the HMIC report last July and August. A very clear and resounding position from the families emerged from these meetings, which was that the HET should go and that the families had no confidence in the PSNI to examine or investigate killings of their loved ones by the British Army and where collusion existed.
We also have a situation whereby the Police Ombudsman does not have sufficient resources to conduct investigations into complaints in a way and manner that families and the wider public would normally expect concerning killings, including the failure to properly investigate these at the time.
The Haass process provides a basis for taking forward all of these issues under the remit of a Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) merging the work of the Police Ombudsman with the work previously undertaken by the HET.
This proposed HIU would have full police powers and be completely separate and independent of the PSNI unlike the HET. This is a positive step forward in terms of the confidence required by families affected by state violence in an independent process including its ability for potential delivery of what families require.
Sitting alongside this is an Independent Commission for Information Retrieval (ICIR) that can also be engaged by families seeking information and where limited immunity exists in return for information. This too meets the needs expressed by some families who simply want the truth about what happened.
Within the ICIR there is also a separate unit that will examine material concerning thematic issues of the conflict and this too is about examining the wider policy context in which the conflict occurred. For many of our families this too is very important in terms of their individual and collective experience of the conflict.
Over the coming days RFJ’s Board of Directors will be finalising our fuller thoughts, views and position on the Haass proposals. This too as always will be guided by the needs of families who we will be again consulting with.
It would be our immediate view that with the suspension of the HET that the HIU and ICIR be implemented irrelevant of the endorsement of all of the political parties to the talks.
Families across the community affected by the conflict have been continuously let down by flawed processes and political inaction. We now have a perfect opportunity to do the right thing for all those bereaved and injured in the conflict, they deserve nothing less.