Independent International Commission on Decommissioning

Independent International Commission on Decommissioning

The Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) was established to oversee the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons in Ireland, as part of the peace process.

An earlier international body, set up during the ceasefires to report on how decommissioning might be achieved, presented its report on 22 January 1996. This recommended that the decommissioning process should take place "to the satisfaction of an independent commission". The Decommissioning Act, 1997 in the Republic of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Arms Decommissioning Act 1997 in the United Kingdom enabled such a body, which was then set up in an agreement between the British and Irish governments on 26 August 1997.

The Commission was made up of:
* (Ret) General John de Chastelain, the Chairman, from Canada
* Brigadier Tauno Nieminen, from Finland, and
* Andrew D. Sens, from the USA

Its objective was to facilitate the decommissioning of firearms, ammunition and explosives, by:
* consulting with the two governments, the participants in the ongoing negotiations in Northern Ireland, and other relevant groups,
* devising and presenting to the governments a set of proposals on how to achieve decommissioning,
* facilitating the process by observing, monitoring and verifying decommissioning, and receiving and auditing arms, and
* reporting periodically on progress.

In the Belfast Agreement, signed in 1998, the participants reaffirmed their commitment to the total disarmament of all paramilitary organisations, and confirmed their intention to continue to work constructively and in good faith with the Independent Commission, and to use any influence they may have, to achieve the decommissioning of all paramilitary arms within two years following endorsement in referendums North and South of the agreement and in the context of the implementation of the overall settlement.

In the event, progress on decommissioning was disappointingly slow, and the two-year target was not met. Decommissioning of PIRA weaponry was often used as a necessary condition before Unionists would agree to the full implementation of the Agreement including power sharing.

Decommissioning of Republican paramilitary weaponry

In 2000, Martti Ahtisaari, former President of Finland, and Cyril Ramaphosa, South African political and business leader, were appointed to inspect IRA weapons dumps. They submitted three reports over the next year. [cite web|url= |title=Reports of the Weapons Inspectors|work=Reports and Statements by the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD)|publisher=CAIN|accessdate=2008-10-11]

PIRA weaponry

On 26 September 2005, the commission published its fourth and final report on acts of Provisional IRA (PIRA) decommissioning. The decommissioning process has taken place using estimates of PIRA weaponry submitted by the British and Irish Governments. [Colonel al-Gaddafi is known to have given the British Government a detailed inventory of weapons he gave to the PIRA in the 1970s and 1980s, this list was handed to British intelligence in 1995. See Bowyer Bell J, "The secret Army - the IRA" Page 578, 3rd edition ISBN 1-85371-813-0] General John de Chastelain and his colleagues reported that they were "...satisfied that the arms decommissioned represent the totality of the IRA's arsenal". This was confirmed by two witnesses independent of the Commission, Catholic priest Father Alec Reid, and former president of the Methodist Church in Ireland, Reverend Harold Good.

Among the weaponry estimated (by Janes Intelligence) to have been destroyed as part of this entire process were:

*1,000 rifles,
*3 tonnes of Semtex,
*20-30 heavy machine guns,
*7 Surface-to-air missiles (unused),
*7 flame throwers,
*1,200 detonators,
*20 rocket-propelled grenade launchers,
*100 hand guns, and
*100+ grenades. [Security estimates/Jane's Intelligence Review [ | BBC, 26 September 2005] ]

There had been three previous acts of decommissioning by the PIRA which were also overseen by the commission. The first act was in October 2001, the second in April 2002, the third in October 2003 and the fourth and final in September 2005. [See [ here] for details.] In the fourth and final act of decommissioning, General de Chastelain reported that he had seen rifles, particularly AK-47s, machine guns, ground-to-air missiles, explosives, explosive material, mortars, flame throwers, hand guns, timer units and ballistic caps, and some weaponry that was "very old", including a Bren machine gun.

The panel stated to the press: [The September 2005 IICD PDF report on the final act of PIRA decommissioning is available [ | here] .]

"We have observed and verified events to put beyond use very large quantities of arms which we believe include all the arms in the IRA's possession... Our new inventory is consistent with these estimates. We are satisfied that the arms decommissioning represents the totality of the IRA's arsenal."
and while they could not report on the quantity or types of weapons destroyed the witnesses said:
"The experience of seeing this with our own eyes, on a minute-to-minute basis, provided us with evidence so clear and of its nature so incontrovertible that at the end of the process [PIRA weapon decommissioning] it demonstrated to us - and would have demonstrated to anyone who might have been with us - that beyond any shadow of doubt, the arms of the IRA have now been decommissioned."

It is worth noting that the 10th (latest as of May 2006) report from the IMC has stated that it believes that the PIRA completed the process of decommissioning all the weapons "under its control" during the final act of decommissioning in 2005. [Tenth report of the Independent Monitoring Commission April 2006 available in PDF [ here] NOTE: the IMC report is issued every six months.]

See Also Provisional IRA arms importation

Decommissioning of Loyalist paramilitary weaponry

As this point (May 2006) only a tiny fraction of the weaponry under the control of Loyalist paramilitaries has been decommissioned.

The only group to have liaised with the commission leading to decommissioning of a small number of weapons is the now defunct Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF). The LVF act of decommissioning took place in December 1998 and involved the decommissioning of smallarms and ammunition. [See press report on the act of LVF decommissioning overseen by the commission at the time [ | RTE News 14 December 1998] ]

No decommissioning of weaponry has taken place by other loyalist paramilitary groups, namely:

*Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
*Ulster Defense Association (UDA)

and groups assumed to be covernames for these organisations ie. the:

*Red Hand Commandos (RHC) and
*Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)

Whilst other loyalist paramilitary groups exist, these groups are thought to have control over the majority of weapons in the collective loyalist paramilitary arsenal. The UVF having liaised with the IICD since 1997 suspended its contact with the Commission in January 2003. The UDA views are being communicated to the IICD via a community group called Ulster Political Research Group(UPRG).

Both the UVF and UDA have refused to decommission their weaponry and are still engaged in violence as stated by the Independent Monitoring Commission in its latest series of reports. [See [ | UTV/ITN April 2006 news report] and [ | April 2006 BBC News report on IMC] .] On 12 February 2006, "The Observer" [,,1708038,00.html reported] that the UVF refused to decommission its weapons.

Most recently, loyalist paramilitaries were blamed for a rise in attacks on East European migrants to Northern Ireland including racially motivated attacks, pipe bombs, bricks hurled through windows and physical assaults. [See Guardian reports dated 30 May 2006 available [,,1785490,00.html here] .]

Legally held weapons in Northern Ireland

Both Nationalist and Republican politicians while condemning the lack of Loyalist decommissioning have also voiced concern over the amount of legally held weapons in Northern Ireland Fact|date=February 2007. As of 2004, the number of weapons including shotguns, currently held on licence in Northern Ireland is 144,554. Figures cited in the media circa 2005 put the figure of licensed weapons as:
*89,600 shotguns,
*23,000 airguns,
*16,600 rifles and
*14,200 handguns. [These figures appear to be the 2004 figures, which saw a rise upwards of 5,634 on the 2001 figures. See "Belfast Telegraph" report quoted at UUP [ here] ]

Around 1 gun for every 9 citizens over the age of 16.

Legally held weapons are not under consideration by the IICD, but the issue is sometimes raised when decommissioning is talked about.


External links

* [ The British-Irish agreement setting up the IICD]
* [ Reports and Statements by the IICD]

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