UK impunity 101

By Andrée Murphy

LAST November I was privileged to travel to London with my colleagues from Relatives for Justice (RFJ), RFJ USA, the Committee on the Administration of Justice, the Pat Finucane Centre, Rights Watch UK and Amnesty International to meet the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparations and non-recurrence, Pablo De Greiff.

I remember it especially as it was the day before the Fresh Start Agreement which did not deliver to victims and survivors of our conflict. As a coincidence, the first anniversary of that failure last week coincided with the publication of the Special Rapporteur’s report.

It’s the first time I’ve seen an official report reflect the lived experience and testimony of victims and survivors. The report makes many recommendations and it’s well worth reading in full. And I’m going to blatantly promote RFJ’s new website and encourage you to read our comments in full about it.

But what has kind of been missed in the public debate are the British state’s comments. The UK government had sight of the report long before the public did in order to allow them to make comment before it went live. What they say is quite honestly shockingly small-minded, ungracious and flies in the face of any commitment they have made to victims of our conflict. It is what could be called “How to Do Impunity While Pretending to be Committed to a Peace Process and Cry over Victims”.

Firstly, as we all know, this British government just don’t get that citizens have rights. So they promote benevolence instead of rights. Secondly, if anyone who is on the wrong side of state wrongdoing tries to assert those rights they get all humpy and treat the family as wickedly as possible in all avenues of redress, and for good measure decide to leave the human rights conventions altogether and make up their own rules. And thirdly, just for good measure they insult the person whose rights have been violated by calling them pernicious and alleging they’re advancing an agenda, when all the family is doing is trying to attain the dignity of truth.

Well, this response to the United Nations Human Rights Committee displays all three stages of their Dummies’ Guide to Impunity. An absolute doozy is where they get up to a million about the UN Special Rapporteur addressing the question of the need to have a process which addresses all violations by all actors robustly and in a human rights-compliant way. In particular they say that “the SR fails sufficiently to differentiate between the actions of illegal terrorist groups and UK security forces.” Mmmm, actually he kind of addresses that when in the context of addressing national security, Mr De Greiff recognises the extent of the use of informers and the question of collusion. He knows that the “differentiation” is a matter for independent examination in a proper process.

You see, the British government might think they can continue to throw a blind one to their actual conflict role, but when a qualified, distinguished and experienced international figure came to town to examine these matters he clearly bought none of that and he dared use the C word. Collusion.

Yep, the guy with beautiful manners and respectful approaches clearly listened hard and wrote a report that could contribute positively. If he was allowed.

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