MUMBAI, India – Britain’s controversial Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act has been raised by a Franciscan friar at the United Nations.

The bill, which is almost 100 pages long, was introduced in May 2022 and establishes an independent commission that addresses more than 1,000 unsolved killings.

The law, finally put into place in September 2023, establishes a controversial conditional amnesty to those accused of the killings in exchange for cooperating with the commission in their investigations.

According to the UK government, the law addresses “the legacy of the Northern Ireland Troubles and promote reconciliation.”

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said the immunity provisions would generate “the greatest volume of information, in the quickest possible time.”

In Northern Ireland, “The Troubles” were an almost 30-year period in which Catholics and Protestants fought each other, leaving more than 3,500 people dead.

The Troubles ended after all sides in the conflict signed the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which created a power-sharing government in Northern Ireland.

Under the new law, the British government had planned to end all Troubles-related civil cases and halt inquests that are not at their findings stage by May 1.

Franciscan Friar Eunan McMullan, the Franciscans International (FI) Europe Program Coordinator, spoke at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 21.

“Regarding the Legacy Act of 2023 UK legislation was found by the High Court in Belfast … to be incompatible with the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) and Windsor Framework in no fewer than five aspects,” he said.

“Whilst we welcome the abandonment of the UK’s plan to abolish the Human Rights Act, the state must fully implement its international human rights obligations,” the friar said.

According to the Irish Times, McMullan earlier expressed concern about “the UK’s failure to fulfil its international legal obligations, including in regard to migration and asylum.”

He also raised the Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill, which aims to transport asylum seekers to east Africa.

In relation to the Illegal Migration Act he said the UK government did not “follow the recommendations of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission,” which he pointed out has taken a judicial review to its compatibility with the ECHR and Windsor Framework.

“The exact same concerns were expressed for the same reasons by the Committee commenting on the 8th Periodic Review of the UK under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).” McMullan told Crux.

In September 2023, Franciscans International (FI) launched new regional program covering Europe.

Announcing the initiative, a note on the FI website reads, “We believe that expanding our geographical scope to complement both our global advocacy and the work already done in Africa, the Americas, and Asia-Pacific will add a valuable dimension to our efforts at the United Nations to defend human rights and dignity, promote peace, and demand environmental justice.”

It said FI’s regional program are driven by the needs of our Franciscan and other partners, working on human rights issues on the local and national levels.

“If they determine that their work can benefit from raising concerns at the UN, FI provides the technical expertise to develop and implement a sustained advocacy strategy. Over the past years, Franciscans throughout Europe have consistently expressed the desire to do so,” the website said.

“Sadly, human rights abuses happen everywhere in the world and Europe is no exception,” said Franciscan Friar Markus Heinze, FI’s Executive Director.

“We see daily violations committed against migrants and refugees. European business interests play a critical role in the climate crises and violent conflict again afflicts the continent,” he said.

“Especially in these challenging times, I’m grateful that Franciscans have mobilized the resources that will let them bring the violations they witness and document in Europe to the attention of the UN,” the friar said.

As a barrister, a former Director of Legal Services in the Office of the Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland, and a Franciscan, McMullan brings a unique expertise to the position.

The Franciscan friar said he uses this background to both foster new connections between European Franciscans and the UN and effectively shape the required advocacy activities.

After an initial mapping of key partners and issues in various European countries, he will work as part of FI’s advocacy team in Geneva to raise these concerns with the relevant UN human rights mechanisms.

“In this year of 2023, we Franciscans celebrate the approval of the Rule of Saint Francis, which we aim to follow to bring peace to our hearts. Likewise, the rule of law is necessary to establish peace among people and it has been disrespected in many places,” McMullan said.

“The goal of this program is to shine a spotlight on the injustices that are occurring and to promote our human rights and seek redress from the relevant bodies,” he said.

Correction: McMullan is a religious brother, not a priest, as appeared previously. We apologize for this mistake.