UN rights expert: Northern Ireland must address past rights violations
UN rights expert: Northern Ireland must address past rights violations

Northern Ireland still faces significant challenges 20 years after the violent period known as “the Troubles” [BBC backgrounder], UN Special Rapporteur Pablo de Greiff [official profile] said [statement] Wednesday. The Special Rapporteur focused on transitional justice in Northern Ireland and addressed three major concerns: the need for new efforts to remedy the shortcomings of the current policy, the need for mechanisms designed to capture the more “structural,” “systemic,” nature of the violations, and a broader range of rights’ violations for victims. Grieff suggested that “cases leading to death have received most of the attention from both institutions … despite the fact that other types of cases, ranging from illegal detentions to injury, severe harm, and torture, far outnumber cases of death.” Grieff also noted [press release] that despite efforts to uphold truth, justice, and institutional reforms, the policy remains fragmented.

The Troubles was a time of unrest in Northern Ireland, between 1968 and 1998, when Protestant unionists wished to remain a part of UK, and Catholic republicans and nationalists sought to join the Republic of Ireland. During this time more than 3,600 people died and 50,000 were injured throughout the UK. Both Northern Ireland and the British government continue to be affected by the Troubles. Last year, the US Supreme Court denied certiorari in a case that was temporarily preventing the British government from accessing Boston College [academic website] research materials related to the Troubles, opening up the Belfast Project [materials] materials for access. In 2013 Amnesty International [advocacy website] published a report [JURIST report] stating that Northern Ireland will struggle to move forward due to its failure to establish the truth about abuses committed during its civil unrest, and criticizing Ireland and the UK for failing to investigate human rights abuses during the period. In 2011 the British government announced it would pay reparations [JURIST report] to the families of those killed or wounded in Northern Ireland’s 1972 Bloody Sunday [JURIST news archive], the day on which members of the British Army’s Parachute Regiment opened fire on civil rights marchers in Londonderry. The shooting, which killed 13 Northern Ireland civilians and wounded 15, was later determined to have been unjustified by the UK Bloody Sunday Inquiry [official website].