Can the Past Be Policed? Lessons from the Historical Enquiries Team Northern Ireland

Law and Social Challenges, Vol. 11, Spring/Summer 2009

Transitional Justice Institute Research Paper No. 09-06

56 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2009

See all articles by Patricia Lundy

Patricia Lundy

Ulster University - Transitional Justice Institute

Date Written: June 25, 2009

Abstract

In the aftermath of conflict, victims often desire answers to unanswered questions about the tragic death of their loved ones. Internationally the favoured mechanism for addressing the legacy of conflict is a truth commission. These processes are tasked with establishing two levels of "truth": macro and micro. It is generally accepted that truth commissions are more adept at delivering the "bigger picture" or macro level truths. A fundamental weakness is their inability to satisfy the majority of victims' needs for micro level information, and this remains unfinished business in many post truth commission societies. Using a case study of the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) Northern Ireland, this article explores how societies in transition might address victims' quest for "the truth." The HET was set up by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to re-examine deaths attributable to the conflict in Northern Ireland. Victims' families are said to be at the heart of the process, and wherever possible all their unanswered questions will be answered. The HET is an innovative process and a unique concept in policing internationally. This article draws on over two and a half years of empirical research and unprecedented access to the HET/PSNI. The author reflects on what kinds of lessons and insights can be drawn, and whether or not the HET concept is a model for other countries in transition.

Keywords: dealing with the past, Historical Enquiries Team, Northern Ireland, HET

Suggested Citation

Lundy, Patricia, Can the Past Be Policed? Lessons from the Historical Enquiries Team Northern Ireland (June 25, 2009). Law and Social Challenges, Vol. 11, Spring/Summer 2009, Transitional Justice Institute Research Paper No. 09-06, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1425445

Patricia Lundy (Contact Author)

Ulster University - Transitional Justice Institute ( email )

Shore Road
Newtownabbey, County Antrim BT37 OQB
Northern Ireland

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