The Human Rights Committee at the United Nations says the Northern Ireland Legacy Act, the controversial legislation that became British law last September, should be repealed or reformed.

The Committee's observations were published today, March 28, following the eighth periodic report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland earlier this month.

In a statement on Thursday, the Committee said it "is concerned by the adoption of the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act 2023, which occurred despite the warnings expressed by domestic and international actors that it would be in breach of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and would violate the State party’s international human rights obligations, including under the Covenant.

"In particular, the Committee is concerned about the conditional immunity scheme for persons who have committed serious human rights violations, the weakness of the 'review' function of the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery, the allegations on its lack of independence, the absence of the power of investigation to guarantee the right to truth for victims, and the procedural barriers and obstacles to criminal investigations, civil suits, and other remedies, effectively stifling any criminal or civil proceedings connected to the troubles.

"The Committee is also concerned about the increased use of closed material proceedings for legacy cases.

"The Committee calls on the State party to repeal or reform the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act 2023 and to adopt proper mechanisms with guarantees of independence, transparency, and genuine investigation power that discharge the State party’s human rights obligations and deliver truth, justice and effective remedies, including reparations to victims of the Northern Ireland conflict."

When asked for comment on Thursday, a UK government spokesperson told IrishCentral: “The Legacy Act seeks to put in place effective information recovery for victims and families, while complying with our international obligations."

The UN Human Rights Committee's conclusion comes a month after Belfast High Court Justice Adrian Colton concluded that the immunity provisions in the Legacy Act are incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and should be disapplied.

"I am satisfied that immunity from prosecution provisions under Section 19 of the (Northern Ireland Troubles) Act are in breach of the lead applicant's rights pursuant to Article 2 of the ECHR," Justice Colton told a sitting of the Belfast High Court today, February 28.

“I am also satisfied that they are in breach of Article 3 of the ECHR.

"There is no evidence that the granting of immunity under the Act will in any way contribute to reconciliation in Northern Ireland. Indeed, the evidence is to the contrary.”

However, Justice Colton, who acknowledged he understands the opposition to the new scheme, also concluded that the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR) is capable of carrying out an ECHR-compliant investigation into Troubles-related deaths and offenses.

The UK Government has since lodged an application to appeal the decision from the Belfast High Court.

"Following consideration of all aspects of the judgment, the UK Government has lodged an application for an appeal with the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal,” a UK Government spokesperson told IrishCentral.

"We remain committed to implementing the Legacy Act and delivering the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR) to provide better outcomes for victims and survivors of the Troubles by giving them more information about what happened to their loved ones."

Previously, the Irish government announced in December that it is initiating an inter-State case against the UK under the European Convention on Human Rights, a move that the British Government said it "profoundly regrets."