15/07/2003

'Lack of progress' being made in probing Troubles' murders

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has expressed concern at the "lack of progress" being made by government "into all killings in Northern Ireland" over the last 30 years.

The statement, by Professor Brice Dickson, Chief Commissioner of the Human Rights group - in response to the publication of the Commission's fourth annual report last week - is likely to ruffle a few feathers at PSNI headquarters after Chief Constable Hugh Orde said last month that the perpetrators of hundreds of unsolved murders in Northern Ireland are unlikely to be brought to justice.

Prof Dickson said: "This year's report highlights our concerns about the difficulties encountered in a number of areas.

"We are concerned about the lack of progress by government in ensuring that the right to life is fully protected through proper investigations into all killings in Northern Ireland. We think there has been a failure to address the inadequacies of the inquest system, despite the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights in cases as far back as 2001."

More than 1,800 killings, half of those carried out during 30 years of the Troubles in the province, remain unsolved.

Mr Orde suggested that a type of truth and reconciliation process may be needed to bring closure to the past.

Prof Dickson also expressed deep concern about the continuing paramilitary violence "and its obvious detrimental effect on human rights".

"We call on all paramilitary organisations to desist from violence and on all political parties to work towards its elimination from our society," he said.

However, Prof Dickson did welcome the recent appointment of a Commissioner for Children and Young People in Northern Ireland and said he was looking forward to working effectively with the new office when it was fully established.

In its report the Commission examines the state of human rights in Northern Ireland, looking in particular at developments resulting from the European Court of Human Rights and identifying six key areas about which it has serious concerns.

These areas include: the right to life; paramilitary violations; the use of plastic baton rounds; children's rights; the Bill of Rights; and the Commission's powers.

(MB)

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