The Historical Use of Amnesties, Immunities, and Sentence Reductions in Northern Ireland
25 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2016
Date Written: June 28, 2016
Throughout the Northern Ireland transition, discussions of amnesty have been controversial and in some cases have undermined political stability. While no formal amnesty has been adopted in the current peace process, there have been repeated processes to limit the liability of particular groups to criminal investigation or punishment. Furthermore, between Partition and the peace process, amnesties were used on several occasions for a range of purposes. Given the controversy surrounding the term amnesty, this report begins by defining the key measures that have been proposed or employed including amnesties, sentence reductions and use immunities. It then explores their historical use by reviewing measures including the Early Release Scheme, the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains, the ‘On-the-Runs’ scheme, use immunity offered by public inquiries, and proposals relating to amnesty and immunity made by the Consultative Group on the Past, the Haass-O’Sullivan draft agreement, and the Stormont House Agreement. The report concludes that these experiences illustrate that different forms of amnesty and immunity can encourage stakeholders to engage with peacebuilding and truth recovery programmes. However, these past experiences also provide lessons for the proposed Independent Commission on Information Retrieval. On this basis, the report recommends that any new legislation incorporating immunity provisions should be debated openly from the start, and that guarantees of immunity should be sufficiently robust to ensure that those with knowledge of past crimes can engage with the process without fear of prosecution. This report is produced as part of AHRC-funded project on Amnesties, Prosecutions, and the Public Interest in the Northern Ireland Transition.
Keywords: Amnesty, transition, Northern Ireland, Immunity
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation