Concerns Expressed by the ICLVR

“I have a mantra – we’ve had all these deaths because of division so let’s not cause further division. I share many people’s scepticism about a legacy commission. I think it’s unreal to suppose everybody is prepared to tell the truth. Not only that if the whole truth was told about what everybody did over that terrible time, would it heal us? I think it would blow apart the degree of consensus we have achieved. Do we actually need to know what various well known personalities were doing by night and day at that time? There are other things you can and should do – story telling, for instance. I don’t know that you could call it an amnesty but certainly I’m worried about the idea of selective investigations. Either we have a grand all-encompassing investigation, which is never going to happen, or you say it’s time we draw a line under all this and that is quite strongly my feeling.” Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, head of the Indepdendent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains (ICLVR), speaking to the Irish News, March 29 2012

Background on the Disappeared

Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR)

Another vexed issue had it roots way back in the early 1970’s when the Troubles, and the IRA campaign, was just beginning. Faced with embarrassing cases, in P.R. terms, of members who had become informers for the British Army the IRA in Belfast, under the command of Gerry Adams, began the practice of ‘disappearing’ such people. The IRA was unwilling to admit that the British had penetrated its ranks or, there were other public relations downsides associated with the individuals.

Like a regular army, the IRA believes it has the right to kill spies but normally it would surround such acts with publicity – the body would be left in a public place, a statement explaining the background would be issued to the media. ‘Disappearing’ on the other hand meant keeping the execution and the reasons secret. The victims would be escorted across the Irish border where they would be shot and buried in a secret grave.

Over the years some fifteen people were ‘disappeared’ in this way and seven or eight bodies remain to be found. As a direct result of President Clinton’s intervention with Gerry Adams, the IRA in 1999 fínally admitted to the practice and named some, but not all of the victims it had been responsible for. As a result of this US initiative the British set up the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR). The Commission is entirely dependent on information from those involved in the ‘disappearing’ process, directly or indirectly, i.e. former IRA members. Not being a centralised organisation in such matters only locals would normally be aware of such details.

See also: Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement

From the ICLVR website:

“The Commission guarantees that any information given to it or its agents will be treated as absolutely confidential and will be used solely for the purpose of locating victims’ remains.
The operation of the ICLVR is covered in the United Kingdom by the Northern Ireland (Location of Victims’ Remains) Act and in Ireland by the Criminal Justice (Location of Victims’ Remains) Act, 1999.
These Acts provide for three types of protection for information provided to the Commission or its agents about the whereabouts of the remains of victims of violence (and for any evidence which is obtained as a result). First, the Acts make such information and evidence inadmissible in criminal proceedings. (section 3 of the British Act and section 5 of the Irish Act.) Second, they place restrictions on the forensic testing of human remains and other items found as a result of the provision of information to the Commission. (section 4 of the British Act and section 5 of the Irish Act.) Third, they restrict the disclosure of information provided to the Commission. (section 5 of the British Act and section 6 of the Irish Act).
Information provided to the Commission shall not be disclosed to any person except for the purpose of facilitating the location of the remains to which the information relates. The commission may also inform a victim’s family that information has been received and the place where, according to the information, the victim’s remains may be found. This means that the Commission may not disclose the identity of an informant nor any information likely to lead to the identification of an informant.”

Steven McCaffery, Press Association
July 3, 2011 Sunday 12:31 PM BST
761 words

A bid by Northern Ireland police to seize interviews which former paramilitaries gave to an American college could disrupt attempts to find the bodies of the so-called ‘Disappeared’, officials have claimed.

The independent commission trying to locate the remains of people murdered and secretly buried during the Troubles said it relies on confidential information from those linked to the killings.

But it fears potential witnesses could be put-off, after detectives investigating the murders launched a legal challenge to access private archives held by Boston College.

The commission’s senior investigator Geoff Knupfer, whose organisation has found nine of the 16 victims, said police were entitled to pursue their work, but he wanted to stress that information passed to his commission could not be used in prosecutions.

The Boston college interviews with former republicans and loyalists were recorded on condition that they would not be published until those involved were dead.

But there are now concerns that the attempt to secure accounts that include accusations Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams was linked to IRA murders, despite his denials, could deter other paramilitaries from talking.

The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR) was set up in 1999 by the British and Irish governments to locate the remains of the Disappeared.

Mr Knupfer said: “Everything we do is dependent on information received.

“The legislation that covers the commission, both in the Republic and the UK and Northern Ireland, means our information cannot be used by anyone else.

“It cannot be used in criminal proceedings, it can’t be passed on to any other agency or any other individual.

“We are very concerned that there might be some perception, incorrect perception somewhere, that the inquiries that are going on, and the application for a subpoena to access the archives at Boston College, might adversely affect people who might otherwise come along to us and provide information on the Disappeared.

“Our remit is wholly and solely to recover and repatriate victims. We are not interested in prosecutions.

“To repeat what I have said, we can’t do anything with the information, other than recover the victims.

“So I think it’s important [there is] this clear ground between what we do, and what law enforcement agencies in the British isles and beyond do.”

He said his team faced a mammoth task in tracing the remains of murder victims who went missing as early as the 1970s.

Last week the commission located a further body buried in Co Monaghan, which is now being forensically examined to determine if it is one of the victims being sought.

But the police efforts to use the Boston College archive in a criminal investigation could, he said, deter others from helping the commission.

“We’ve had some concerns expressed to us, very serious concerns, by intermediaries and others who we deal with on a day-to-day basis,” he said.

“They have flagged this up. We were concerned about it, they too have flagged it up, without any prompting from us.

“And we appreciate that this will put people off, or potentially put people off, from contacting us with information. But it’s our lifeblood. It’s what we survive on.”

He added: “If it’s putting them off, we need to make it absolutely clear that it’s not the way we do things.

“We appeal for information always. We don’t adopt the sort of approaches that are clearly being adopted here. It’s not what we would do.”

Mr Knupfer said he was unaware if any cases had already been adversely affected by the issue.

But he said losing contact with potential sources of information could endanger the chances of securing closure for the families of the remaining Disappeared.

“Of course it might. The whole ethos of this is information. It’s based on information and if the information isn’t available, then sadly we can’t do an awful lot to resolve the heartache of the families concerned.”

The commission investigator said he had no reason to believe Boston College held information which may be of help to his work.

“Should anything crop up in the future, we would go through formal channels and ask them. We wouldn’t use legal means to access their database or their archive.

“We would just either write to them, or ring them up and say `could you help us?’. And they can either say yes or no.”

But he added: “Our material will not be going to Boston College in the future. We will not be passing on any information to anybody, in any shape, size or form. It will remain under the control of the commission.”

Hunt for Northern Ireland disappeared could be disrupted, warn investigators
PSNI legal action ‘could hinder’ Disappeared searches

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Shaun Woodward reiterates British Government support for the work of the ICLVR