The Secretary of Defense said controversial legislation to deal with the legacy of the Northern Ireland Issues would end the current “carousel” of court cases.
Ben Wallace said the current system “does not serve the peace process well”.
However, Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly criticized Mr. Wallace’s comments as “insulting and disrespectful to victims of conflict who have been waiting for truth and justice for decades over the murder of loved ones”.
The government’s Old Bill of Rights would grant immunity to persons accused of Problems as long as they cooperate with a new truth-recovery agency, as well as halt any future civil lawsuits and investigations linked to murders during the conflict.
The proposed amendments are opposed by all of Stormont’s main parties and the Irish government, with victims’ groups in the region denouncing it as an “amnesty” for the murderers.
This week, the Government moved to amend proposals for the truth recovery agency so that it can conduct criminal investigations “where it deems appropriate”.
Wallace also urged Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer, who has pledged to shelve the Bill if he becomes Prime Minister, to be “very careful before making such commitments”.
Speaking in Belfast on Wednesday, Wallace insisted the law was the fairest way to deal with the past.
Mr Wallace, who had previously served as a soldier in Northern Ireland in 1991, said he understood the deep feelings of the past.
“I understand the sense of loss that many victims have,” he said.
“But it’s also important that we stop what has become a carousel of legacy investigations and reopening and retrials that haven’t actually served the peace process very well.
“It doesn’t help many of the victims or defendants I’ve seen, I think it’s really important that we do our best to draw a line under it.
“The Good Friday Agreement was as much about forgiveness and coming together as anything else, and this old law is about saying that we want to get out of the constant reopening of investigations with the same processes – while I was a junior minister here, I wanted to get over the weight of these investigations and make it a better place for people to come forward. They think it will take 30 years to get into the system and if they get involved in this old program then of course they will reach a level of immunity.
“This is pretty important, if they choose to engage, if they don’t choose to cooperate, then of course they are open to prosecution. This is a very important part of the healing and coming together process.”
It was presented to the Secretary of Defense that the law would destroy the chance for justice for many victims.
He replied: “Justice has not been served for the thousands of victims of the terrorists – who, incidentally, committed most of the killings, killings and bombings during the Troubles.
“It was the vast majority of people who suffered at the hands of terrorists, both loyal and republican, and justice was not served.
“There has been substantial re-running of numerous investigations. The number of investigations that were redone, re-investigated and inconclusive when I was here junior minister.
“One of the things victims want more than anything when I meet them is answers: What happened to the person I love, why did it happen, and who was involved in it?
“We hope this new proposal will create the environment that will allow people to come forward… I have not seen many terrorists come forward and be open about the crimes they have committed.
“In return for coming forward, there will be that level of protection or immunity from prosecution, and if that’s what we need to do to get away from Issues, it’s to draw a line in the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement. forgive and move on.
“As a veteran here, I remember struggling to come to terms with the fact that many of the IRA prisoners were released, dismissed, so many people in these communities here, whether republican or unionist, have seen bad people effectively come out of prison. It felt very uncomfortable.”
Mr. Wallace urged those who oppose the Bill to “try it” and see if it works.
Responding, Mr Kelly urged the UK government to stop the old bill.
“British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace’s comments that the British government’s flawed inheritance bill would end the ‘carousel of inheritance investigations’ is insulting and disrespectful to the families of conflict victims who have been waiting for decades for truth and justice.” I said.
“His comments are arrogant, callous and absolutely unacceptable.
“Access to courts and due process is a human right.”
Mr Kelly said the amendments to the bill this week “do not address the important issue of victims’ right to access judicial process”.
“It has been publicly rejected by the victims and their families, human rights experts, churches, senior officials in the UN and EU and US administrations, and all political parties on this island.”
The old bill is against human rights standards and international law and should be shelved immediately.”
The Northern Ireland Issues (Inheritance and Reconciliation) Bill will be discussed in the House of Lords next week.