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Northern Ireland must address past rights violations: AI

Northern Ireland will struggle to move forward due to its failure to establish the truth about abuses committed during its civil unrest, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] warned in a report [text, PDF] published Thursday. The report, entitled "Northern Ireland: Time to Deal with the Past," speaks extensively about the failure of the government to deliver justice or accountability for the abuses. "Fifteen years after the signing of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement [text], they—together with many victims of torture, ill-treatment, abductions and other human rights violations and abuses—are still waiting for truth, justice and reparation." The report places blame on the governments of both Ireland and the UK, claiming that they lack the will to investigate the truth. This report comes just two weeks before the start of all-party talks [CFR report], which are supposed to address many of the most divisive issues that Northern Ireland faces.

The UK did agree, in September, 2011, to compensate the victims [JURIST report] of 1972's Bloody Sunday. The Bloody Sunday inquiry was the longest and most expensive public investigation in British legal history. The government deposed more than 900 witnesses [JURIST report] in 432 days of testimony and took more than 1,500 written statements. The soldiers held responsible for the killings attempted to take action against the inquiry in 2004, arguing against the use of any standard below the criminal standard of proof because of the potential consequences facing them. Inquiry Chairman Lord Saville of Newdigate determined that the tribunal would not use a criminal standard of proof [JURIST report] to find if a soldier shot anyone without justification because the tribunal was merely investigating the circumstances surrounding the deaths and issuing a report. The investigation came to fruition after the Irish government in 1997 produced new evidence that cast doubts on the conduct of the original tribunal established at the time of the incident, which labeled the victims as bombers and gunmen.

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