Submission by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights

Submission by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights

under Rule 9.4 of the Rules of the Committee of Ministers for the supervision of the execution of
judgments and of the terms of friendly settlements
in the cases of

McKerr v. the United Kingdom
(application no. 28883/95, judgment of 4 May 2001)

Finucane v. the United Kingdom
(application no. 29178/95, judgment of 1 July 2003)

Kelly and Others v. the United Kingdom
(application no. 30054/96, judgment of 4 May 2001)

Shanaghan v. the United Kingdom
(application no. 37715/97, judgment of 4 May 2001)

McCaughey and Others v. the United Kingdom
(application no. 43098/09, judgment of 16 July 2013)


1. This submission by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights (hereinafter: “the
Commissioner”) is addressed to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, in
accordance with Rule 9.4 of the Rules of the Committee of Ministers,1 in the context of the
supervision of the execution of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights
(hereinafter: ‘the Court’) in the McKerr group of cases. This group of judgments relates to a
number of shortcomings in the investigation of deaths during the Troubles in Northern Ireland
leading to procedural violations of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights
(hereinafter: ‘the Convention’).

2. According to her mandate, the Commissioner fosters the effective observance of human rights;
assists member states in the implementation of Council of Europe human rights instruments, in
particular the Convention; identifies possible shortcomings in the law and practice concerning
human rights; and provides advice and information regarding the protection of human rights
across the region.2

3. The present submission aims to assist the Committee of Ministers in its examination of the
execution of the aforementioned group of judgments. This submission specifically focuses on
the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill (hereinafter: ‘the Bill’), which the
UK government introduced to Parliament on 17 May 2022. The Bill has potentially far-reaching
implications for the handling of so-called ‘legacy cases’ involving killings and other serious
violations. The Commissioner has followed the UK government’s approach to such legacy
issues closely, including through an exchange of letters with the then-Secretary of State for
Northern Ireland in September 2021,3 which related to the command paper Addressing the
legacy of Northern Ireland’s past.4 Both in the context of that exchange and subsequent
developments, including the publication of the Bill in May 2022, the Commissioner has
continued to closely monitor proposals, and has engaged with different stakeholders in Northern
Ireland. Furthermore, the issue of legacy in Northern Ireland was one of the key topics during
the Commissioner’s recent visit to the United Kingdom (27 June to 1 July 2022).5 The visit
included two days of meetings in Belfast, which were held with various interlocutors, including
the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, the Commissioner for Victims and Survivors
(CVSNI) and the Victims and Survivors Forum, and non-governmental organisations and
academics working on legacy issues. The Commissioner subsequently had an online meeting
with the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State of the Northern Ireland Office, Lord Caine. In
all these meetings, the Bill was addressed in detail. Ahead of the visit, the Commissioner’s
Office also met with representatives of the Northern Ireland Office.

4. Since the report following the aforementioned Commissioner’s visit to the United Kingdom will
be published only after the upcoming examination of the McKerr group by the Committee of
Ministers, this submission aims to share some of the issues raised with the Commissioner
during her visit, as well as the Commissioner’s own observations on elements of the Bill. Section
I of this submission deals with the consultation about the Bill and its public reception. Section II
addresses the review mechanism that is proposed in the Bill. Section III discusses the closure
of current mechanisms for dealing with legacy cases. Section IV deals with the provisions on
conditional immunity in the Bill, as well as its interlinkage with truth-finding and reconciliation.
Section V highlights some other issues of interest from the visit, while section VI presents the
Commissioner’s conclusions.

1 Rules of the Committee of Ministers for the supervision of the execution of judgments and of the terms of
friendly settlements (adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 10 May 2006 and amended on 18 January 2017).
2 Resolution (99)50 on the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, adopted by the Committee of
Ministers on 7 May 1999.
3 See ‘UK government’s legacy proposals must not undermine human rights and cut off victims’ avenues to justice
in Northern Ireland’, 23 September 2021.
4 Command paper 498 of 14 July 2021.
5 For the Commissioner’s initial statement following the visit, see ‘United Kingdom: backsliding on human rights
must be prevented’, 4 July 2022.

I. Consultation and public reception of the Bill

5. During her visit, many interlocutors, especially victims, their family members and survivors, told
the Commissioner of the distress and anxiety that the introduction of the Bill had caused them.
This was in part due to concerns about the specific elements of the Bill (discussed in the
subsequent sections). However, this also related to the approach taken by the UK government
and the way it had moved forward on the matter of legacy in recent years, culminating in the
Bill. Victims highlighted the state of uncertainty that they had lived in since the government had
started indicating a change in approach to legacy issues in March 2020. This uncertainty only
increased with the introduction of the command paper in July 2021. Despite the Bill differing in
some respects from the command paper, many interlocutors found that it largely represented a
continuation of the approach they had unequivocally rejected. They frequently talked about the
Bill as negatively affecting their mental health, including re-traumatisation, because of the
prospect of having to engage with new processes after decades of fighting for justice and truth,
while in their view these new processes are unlikely to deliver the results they seek. Interlocutors
expressed deep concern about the impact on the peace settlement under the Belfast/Good
Friday Agreement if the Bill would be implemented. They also considered that, for reasons set
out in other sections, the Bill was a potential source of societal tensions and negative
intergenerational impacts.

6. This distress and anxiety was further fuelled by a perception that the concerns of key actors in
Northern Ireland, especially victims, had been systematically ignored. Many interlocutors
complained of what they saw as an almost complete lack of proper consultation before the Bill
was published. The Commissioner notes, in this regard, that the Chief Commissioner of the
Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) has stated that the Bill came as a surprise
to her institution, and that any exchange that there had been with the UK government “was
certainly not a consultation and it was barely a discussion.”6 That the NIHRC would not have
been consulted properly in advance of the legislation is a concern given its genesis in the
Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and its specific statutory role to give human rights advice to the
Secretary of State. Similarly, the Commissioner heard that exchanges by the Secretary of State
and Northern Ireland Office with members of the Victims and Survivors Forum were at most of
a cursory nature. She notes that these exchanges have been characterised by the CVSNI as
being “a transfer of information and not a consultation.”7 The CVSNI is a statutory body to
promote the interests of victims and survivors, and the Forum is a diverse body representing
the breadth of victims’ and survivor’s experiences of the Troubles, which is therefore of
particular importance for any policy or legislative developments affecting the interests of victims
and survivors in Northern Ireland. During the visit, the Commissioner received no indication that
other civil society victims’ groups had been consulted prior to the publication of the Bill.8

7. Apart from the specific issues with the Bill and the lack of consultation, many interlocutors also
indicated that they believed that the Bill’s primary purpose was to shield veterans who have
served in Northern Ireland from investigation and prosecution. This followed from repeated
public statements and promises by senior government officials to this effect.9

6 NIHRC Chief Commissioner, providing oral evidence on the Bill to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee of the
UK House of Commons, 7 June 2022, Q374.
7 Commissioner for Victims and Survivors Northern Ireland, providing oral evidence on the Bill to the Northern
Ireland Affairs Committee of the UK House of Commons, 7 June 2022, Q417.
8 This appears to stand in contrast with the way in which other groups of stakeholders were consulted by the
government. For example, the Northern Ireland Veterans’ Commissioner noted consultation had been “satisfactory
and very open”, while a representative of the Northern Ireland Retired Police Officers Association said they were
“very happy with the level of engagement”, oral evidence on the Bill to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee of
the UK House of Commons, 15 June 2022, Q452 and Q453.
9 See, for example, the comments of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland during the second reading of the
Bill in the House of Commons: “No longer will veterans, the vast majority of whom served in Northern Ireland with
distinction and honour, have to live in perpetual fear of getting a knock at the door for actions taken in the protection
of the rule of law many decades ago. With the Bill, our veterans will have the certainty they deserve and we will
fulfil our manifesto pledge to end the cycle of investigations that has plagued many of them for too long.” Hansard,
Vol 715, debate on the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill of 24 May 2022, column 177.

8. As to the overall reception of the Bill in Northern Ireland, the Commissioner notes that, like with
the command paper, virtually all victims groups, and the vast majority of human rights actors,
as well as parties across the political spectrum in the Northern Ireland Assembly, have rejected
its approach. The NIHRC has stated clearly that it does not consider the Bill to be compatible
with the UK’s human rights obligations, and that there is also no way in which it can be amended
to make it so.10 Different analyses that the Commissioner has seen by key human rights
organisations also support this view.11

II. The ICRIR review mechanism

9. The Bill foresees the establishment of an Independent Commission for Reconciliation and
Information Recovery (hereinafter: ‘ICRIR’), through which a range of cases related to the
legacy of the Troubles, including those involving killings, would be channelled. This would be
done to the exclusion of (most) other current ways of dealing with legacy cases (see section III
below). During her visit, the Commissioner heard of several concerns about the ICRIR reviews.

10. In terms of the independence of ICRIR and the review process, interlocutors shared concerns,
first of all, about the fact that ICRIR Commissioners would be appointed directly by the Secretary
of State for Northern Ireland. The Bill also gives the Secretary of State powers to set guidance
to ICRIR on, for example, immunity proceedings (including the granting of immunity), the
identification of sensitive information, the holding and handling of information, and the collection
and retaining of biometric information. The Secretary of State is also charged with providing
resources for ICRIR, carrying out a review of the ICRIR’s work and deciding on the termination
of its work before the end of the five-year period set out in the Bill. Many interlocutors noted that
this keeps the ICRIR closely tied to the Secretary of State, which is particularly problematic
since its caseload would also include cases in which agents of the state are alleged to have
been involved in killings.

11. Significant concerns were also expressed about the adequacy of the review foreseen in the Bill.
There was consensus among interlocutors that the proposed review does not contain all the
same elements as current investigations. They believed the Bill to be geared towards carrying
out ‘desk reviews’ of cases, which they considered unlikely to uncover any further information
than had already been exposed. While the Bill provides the possibility to exercise police powers
during the review, interlocutors noted the lack of clarity about when and how this would be the
case, and were doubtful about the extent to which such powers could and would actually be
deployed. While reviews may have added value in some cases, interlocutors stressed that this
was certainly not the case in all instances requiring fully Article 2-compliant investigations.

12. Concerns were also raised about the Bill’s limits on disclosure of official information.
Notwithstanding its provisions on disclosure of relevant information, stakeholders pointed to the
Bill’s national security clauses. National security barriers to disclosure have traditionally been a
bottleneck in other mechanisms dealing with legacy issues. It was also highlighted that the basis
for reviews (requests by family or referral by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland or others
mandated to do so in the Bill) would not guarantee that all cases of alleged killings would be
addressed on the state’s own motion. They furthermore stressed that the review system aims
at non-duplication of earlier processes, but that questions remained about what this meant for
existing caseloads and cases that had not so far been investigated fully in line with the
procedural obligations under Article 2.

10 NIHRC written evidence to the UK Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights (NIB0003), especially
paragraph 1.2: “The NIHRC is clear that the Bill is incompatible with Articles 2 (right to life) and 3 (freedom from
torture of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). This Bill is fatally flawed, it is not possible to make
it compatible with the ECHR.”
11 See, for example, Law Society of Northern Ireland, ‘Statement on the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and
Reconciliation) Bill’, 30 June 2022; Ronan Cormacain, Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill:
A rule of law analysis of its compliance with international law, Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, 17 June 2022;
Anurag Deb, ‘The Northern Ireland Legacy Bill: Reconciliation or restriction?’, UK Human Rights Blog, 31 May
2022; Committee on the Administration of Justice, ‘Academic and human rights experts publish initial response to
the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill’, 24 May 2022; Amnesty International, ‘Northern
Ireland Legacy Bill: Victims’ rights sacrificed to shield perpetrators’, 17 May 2022; Rights & Security International,
‘RSI advises UK Parliament to scrap Northern Ireland legacy legislation’, 23 June 2022.

13. Concerns were also raised about the fact that ICRIR essentially would become a gatekeeper to
any prosecutions, including in view of the problems set out above. This gatekeeper function
would manifest in two ways. First, by prosecutions only being able to go ahead if these are
referred by ICRIR following a review. And second, because of its role in giving immunity from
prosecution (see section IV below). This, they noted, could have a significant impact on the
fulfilment of the requirement under Article 2 of the Convention that investigations should be able
to lead to the identification and punishment of those responsible for killings.

III. Closure of other mechanisms

14. Aside from concerns about the ICRIR reviews themselves, concern about the Bill also originated
from the fact that, by and large, other avenues for seeking truth and justice will be shut down.
While criminal prosecutions remain theoretically possible, this is heavily dependent on decisions
made by ICRIR, as noted above. Other proceedings, such as inquests (unless at an “advanced
stage”), so-called ‘call-in’ investigations (such as Operation Kenova), complaints through the
Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, and civil claims would come to an end (in some cases
as from the first reading of the Bill).

15. In her September 2021 letter, the Commissioner already highlighted the importance of the
interaction of different mechanisms in ensuring justice, truth and reconciliation. With regard to
justice, it was noted throughout the visit that other mechanisms than prosecutions, such as
inquests, Police Ombudsman investigations and civil proceedings have often been instrumental
in uncovering information that could subsequently be used to ensure accountability.
Furthermore, the various mechanisms have been able, to some extent, to cater for the different
needs of victims, since these will not be the same for all. At the end of her visit, the
Commissioner noted in this respect that “unilaterally shutting down options that many victims
and families value greatly as part of their way of dealing with the past ignores their needs and
wishes, and is causing many of them deep distress.”

16. Interlocutors also particularly expressed their opinion that, after many issues along the way,
including in relation to delays caused by lack of resources or disclosure problems, many of the
existing mechanisms were actually starting to deliver. Recent years had seen the conclusion of
some high-profile inquests uncovering important facts, the production of numerous Police
Ombudsman reports and the progression of many civil cases. The Commissioner noted a
distinct concern that these various mechanisms would be shut down precisely at the moment
when they were starting to deliver. Various victims noted that this undermined their hope that
they would be able to find a measure of closure in their cases for which they had strived for
such a long time.

IV. Conditional immunity, truth-finding and reconciliation

17. A key concern with the 2021 command paper was the introduction of a statute of limitations,
which would act as a de facto amnesty. In her September 2021 letter, the Commissioner warned
that this would create impunity for actions during the Troubles. While the Bill does not include
the statute of limitations contained in the command paper, the introduction of a conditional
immunity was a source of concern for the Commissioner’s interlocutors. In addition to
prosecutions being dependent on referrals by ICRIR (see paragraph 9 above), the Bill
introduces a conditional immunity for prosecutions. During the visit, serious doubts were raised
about the compatibility of such immunity with the Court’s case-law.

18. Such concerns particularly related to the fact that immunity is granted if the ICRIR finds that
statements of a person having requested immunity are true to the best of that person’s
knowledge and belief. Interlocutors found this both an extremely low and a very subjective bar
for immunity from prosecution. They expressed serious doubt over how the veracity of
statements would be checked and whether this would go beyond already available information.
They also noted that the Bill makes such granting mandatory. The process of granting immunity
furthermore does not appear to make any provision for informing victims about a request for
immunity in cases that affect them, nor for an opportunity to provide information challenging the
veracity of the statements made by the person claiming immunity.

19. While the UK government has stressed the role of immunity as a tool for closure and
reconciliation, victims were deeply concerned that this would actually have the opposite effect.
They told the Commissioner about the fact that perpetrators and victims often live in close
proximity and that in many cases victims know exactly who was responsible. They talked about
being taunted by perpetrators. If perpetrators would be able to get immunity, victims believed
that this would only embolden them. Moreover, it would allow perpetrators to present their ‘truth’
and thus shape the narrative of the Troubles, including by being able to talk publicly about
events when there is no longer a risk of prosecution. Victims, on the other hand, would have
“no comeback” as they would not be able to challenge that narrative. Some interlocutors called
the Bill, especially due to its immunity clauses, a “perpetrator-centred, not a victims-centred”

20. Specific issues of the process of granting immunity aside, it was also noted that the possibility
of prosecutions would at any rate end once the deadline for making requests for reviews of
deaths ends after five years, or as soon as the Secretary of State decides the ICRIR’s activities
should be terminated. This, many interlocutors noted, would thus provide for a de facto general
amnesty after five years at most.

21. The Commissioner notes that the UK government is clearly aware of the issues arising out of
the conditional immunity scheme. Upon being introduced in the Parliament, the Bill was
accompanied by a memorandum setting out the government’s position on the Bill’s compliance
with the Convention. The memorandum notes that “[t]here does appear to be scope for
exception to the general principle, although its scope and limits are not fully worked out in the
case law.” In particular, the government refers to the balancing of legitimate interests of the
state and the interest of individual members of the public, the entirely exceptional character of
amnesties, and the Court has “countenanced the possibility of an amnesty being compatible
with Article 2 in some particular circumstances, including where a reconciliation process is in
existence.”12 It further highlights other conditional immunity schemes, such as the South African
Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and precedents in Northern Ireland.13

22. Interlocutors however, did not consider that the conditional immunity scheme would be
compliant with Article 2 of the Convention. They highlighted that the existing case law
overwhelmingly emphasises the principle that amnesties for grave human rights violations are
incompatible with international law, including the Convention. Even within the framework of the
theoretical openings the Court’s case law leaves for amnesties, doubt was expressed that these
could be satisfied in the situation in Northern Ireland. While incidents continue to occur and the
ongoing presence and activity of paramilitaries groups remain a concern, there is no ‘hot
conflict’ or immediate hostilities that would be ceased due to taking this step. The peace
settlement in Northern Ireland has been in place for almost three and a half decades. The threat
posed by paramilitarism is also unlikely to be affected by any immunity granted. An
overwhelming necessity for the sake of peace that would justify an amnesty appears to be

23. As regards the need for an amnesty to foster truth and reconciliation, interlocutors pointed to
the overwhelming rejection of the proposals and the clear need for victims to retain different
avenues to justice, including for the purpose of reconciliation. They saw no clear reason to
believe that immunity would foster reconciliation, and important questions remained whether
such a step would not in fact harm reconciliation by creating more uncertainty and tension.
Again, the Commissioner stresses the significant concerns expressed by interlocutors about
the UK government’s motives for instituting a conditional immunity mechanism, and specifically
about the fact that this was taken by many as a measure to shield state actors from scrutiny,
rather than fostering reconciliation. The Commissioner’s interlocutors also firmly rejected
parallels with the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, whose operation
fundamentally differed from the approach taken in the Bill. While the Bill contains provisions on
memorialisation, there was distinct scepticism about both the role and the success of this
element. Various interlocutors noted that, given the UK government’s overall control over the
process, it was questionable whether there would be buy-in from the general public and others,
such as academics, to allow the memorialisation activities to bear fruit.

12 UK government, Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill, European Convention on Human
Rights Memorandum, 16 May 2022, paragraphs 43-47.
13 Ibid., paragraphs 48-55.

V. Other issues

24. For the sake of comprehensiveness, the Commissioner highlights some other elements from
her discussions which may be of relevance to the Committee of Ministers. First, the
Commissioner is deeply concerned about the framing of the work of lawyers and human rights
groups in the context of the Bill. She was told of repeated pronouncements by senior
government representatives, made in the context of the introduction of the Bill, disparaging legal
challenges as ‘vexatious’ or otherwise insidious are deeply troubling.14 The Commissioner
recalls that making legal challenges is an important way of ensuring accountability and fighting
impunity, and that ensuring there is space for this is crucial for any human rights compliant
approach to dealing with the legacy of the past.

25. In this regard, the Commissioner also notes that her discussions about the Bill often intersected
with discussions about the repeal and replacement of the Human Rights Act 1998 through the
Bill of Rights Bill. As she noted following her visit, the Bill of Rights Bill would make significant
changes to the way in which people can bring cases to UK courts and have their rights under
the Convention effectively enforced, and thus impact on access to remedies. The Commissioner
has highlighted that this would alter the interpretation of Convention rights by the UK courts and
thus widen the gap between the protection of those rights in UK courts and the case law of the
European Court of Human Rights. In this respect, she notes that one of the areas that would
particularly be affected would be the interpretation of the UK’s positive obligations,15 including
in relation to Article 2 of the Convention. At the end of her visit to the UK, the Commissioner
also reiterated the potential impact of the Bill of Rights on the peace settlement in Northern
Ireland under the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, and others have highlighted this concern as

26. Although outside of the immediate scope of the examination of the cases at hand, interlocutors
also expressed concern about how the Northern Ireland Troubles Bill would impact on the UK’s
compliance with its procedural obligations under Article 3 of the Convention. They noted that
not all incidents that could amount to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,
which also form an important part of the legacy of the Troubles, come within the scope of the
Bill, and therefore would remain unaddressed.

14 See, for example, BBC, ‘Plans to protect veterans from “vexatious claims”’, 18 March 2020. The Command Paper
(note 4 above) speaks of “unfair investigations” against veterans, paragraph 41. Also see the statement of the Law
Society of Northern Ireland (note 11 above), calling “for attacks on lawyers by members of the Government in
relation to this Bill, and other matters, to cease immediately. Solicitors provide vital support to victims and survivors
of the Troubles to access truth and justice and should not come under attack for doing their jobs.”
15 Bill of Rights Bill, Section 5.
16 See, for example, the Chief Commissioner of NIHRC in her oral evidence to the Joint Committee on Human
Rights of 11 May 2022, HC 215, highlighting the importance of the commitment and will to enforce human rights to
the peace process and Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.

27. Finally, a recurring concern was the speed at which the Bill was being passed through
Parliament, which interlocutors unanimously considered to leave too little time for the detailed
scrutiny it needed.

VI. Conclusions

28. In her September 2021 letter about the UK government’s command paper, the Commissioner
stressed that attempts to set out a different approach, which were unlikely to meet the
requirements of the execution process, would only further remove the prospect of full
implementation of the judgments at hand. In view of the issues mentioned above, many of the
Commissioner’s earlier concerns with regard to the command paper remain in place, especially
the lack of a victims-centred approach, the risk that it would create impunity, and its impact on
truth finding and reconciliation. The Commissioner shares many of the concerns expressed by
her interlocutors about the compatibility of different elements of the Bill with Convention
standards. This applies in particular to the independence and effectiveness of the ICRIR
reviews and the legitimacy of providing perpetrators with immunity from prosecution. Without
prejudice to any views to be taken by the Committee of Ministers or any future findings by the
Court, the Commissioner is of the opinion that, by introducing the Bill, the UK government has
embarked on a course of action that runs a very significant risk of eventually being found by
domestic courts and/or the European Court of Human Rights not to be compliant with the
Convention. This would therefore not only further delay the full implementation of the group of
judgments under examination. It would also fail to deliver on the government’s wish to “draw a
line” under the legacy of the Troubles and, most importantly, would continue to deprive victims
and families from the full enjoyment of their rights under the Convention. This is all the more
concerning because the package of measures to which the UK government previously
committed could be considered as a good basis for a human rights compliant way forward in
legacy cases.

29. The UK government has presented its proposals in the light of the inability of current
mechanisms to deliver for either victims or society at large. However, just as with the command
paper, the Commissioner finds that there is still a distinct lack of reflection about why existing
mechanisms may have been unable to deliver, and particularly on the role of the government
itself in this, for example in relation to resourcing of such mechanism and the prompt disclosure
of relevant information to allow those mechanisms to process cases effectively. In this context,
she also notes a lack of focus on the prospect of remedying such problems without taking
avenues off the table that many victims highly value. This is particularly important since the
various mechanisms that would be shut down by the Bill appear to be overcoming some of the
previous barriers, and are starting to deliver in terms of both justice and information recovery.

30. The Commissioner also notes that the Committee of Ministers has emphasised that any
approach to legacy must be able to garner trust and confidence from the public. On the basis
of her visit and further monitoring, the Commissioner concludes that there is minimal support
for, and public confidence in, the Bill and in its mechanisms in Northern Ireland. The
Commissioner notes that this has further been damaged by the perception that the main
purpose of the Bill is to shield veterans from investigations and prosecutions, rather than
achieving reconciliation. This, according to the Commissioner, is a very understandable
perception, given the repeated statements by government officials emphasising the need to
protect veterans from ‘vexatious’ claims or from otherwise being pursued through criminal law
measures. In meetings with government representatives, it was indicated that there is an
expectation that, once the system is in place, and the ICRIR is filled with qualified and
competent people, trust in the new system will develop. However, the Commissioner notes that,
while there will never be complete agreement on any approach, in this case the baseline of trust
is so low that it is difficult to see how the mechanisms in the Bill will come to garner more
confidence during its implementation.