Human Rights Review 10 (1):5-34 (2009)

The return of devolution to Northern Ireland in May 2007 marks an important turning point in the Northern Ireland peace process, but there remains the issue of the “on-the-runs”—a term used to describe persons suspected of committing a range of terrorist acts during the Troubles, who were never arrested, charged, prosecuted, or tried. It is thought that the On-the-Runs want to return to Northern Ireland, but determining the conditions for their return is a difficult and controversial issue, raising legal and moral concerns and causing strong and painful reactions among the victims of terrorist violence on all sides of the Northern Ireland conflict. It is also an issue that is complicated by the fact that while the Belfast Agreement of 1998 did not address expressly the situation of the On-the-Runs, it did provide for the accelerated release of a significant number of paramilitaries, both republican and loyalist, from prisons in both Ireland and Northern Ireland. This paper reviews the possible options in law for addressing the situation of the On-the-Runs, including extradition and prosecution, as well as trial and amnesty, and pardons. While the paper makes clear that the political offence exception to extradition is no longer the obstacle it once was, it also concludes that politics, rather than law, or simply the passage of time is more likely to offer the solution to the problem posed by the On-the-Runs
Keywords Northern Ireland  On-the-Runs  Paramilitaries  Belfast Agreement
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DOI 10.1007/s12142-008-0095-x
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