By Gordon Rayner, Political Editor
Telegraph Online – 11 May 2018
Historic killings from the Troubles in Northern Ireland should be dealt with through a truth and reconciliation commission rather than "trials and denials", the Chairman of the Commons Defence Select Committee has said. In a letter to the Daily Telegraph, Dr Julian Lewis suggests that the families of soldiers, civilians and terrorists are "more likely to find closure" if those involved in the killings were able to speak freely without fear of prosecution.
A similar process was pioneered in South Africa by Nelson Mandela to heal the wounds of apartheid in the 1990s.
Dr Lewis spoke out as the Government launched a public consultation on how to proceed. The document outlines plans for an Historical Investigations Unit to look into 1,700 unsolved deaths, but it contains no Statute of Limitations, meaning former soldiers could be prosecuted over events dating back to the 1970s.
The DUP and Sinn Fein have both opposed a Statute of Limitations because they cannot endorse an amnesty for terrorists and the security services respectively. But Dr Lewis suggests that with maximum sentences for Troubles-related killings now set at two years, a "truth recovery process" might be preferred by families of the dead. He writes:
"Having had discussions with both Sinn Fein and DUP parliamentarians, I believe that both sides could live with a comprehensive solution – of the sort pioneered by Nelson Mandela in South Africa – even though, for political reasons, they cannot say so openly.
"Those who lost loved ones will more likely find closure from a truth recovery process coupled with immunity from prosecution, than from the current alternative of trials, denials and very short sentences in the event of conviction. It is up to our Government to give a lead and act."