Northern Ireland: Amnesty brands refusal of inquiry in Finucane case 'shameful'

Amnesty International has slammed the government’s proposed review of the case files in the killing of Belfast solicitor Patrick Finucane, announced today. In the more than 20 years since Patrick Finucane’s murder, Amnesty International has vigorously supported his family’s campaign for an independent inquiry into all the circumstances of his death, including into credible evidence that UK state agents colluded in his killing.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International's Northern Ireland Programme Director, said:

“That Patrick Finucane’s family has been kept in the dark so long is an outrage. That the government has proposed another pointless review of case files, instead of the independent, transparent inquiry they deserve, is a shameful decision, not to mention a dereliction of duty under International law.

“It is to the disgrace of the UK government that, over 20 years on from the murder of Patrick Finucane, the truth about his killing is still being kept from his family and from the public. It is doubly shameful given the profound failures to investigate that were identified by both the Cory Collusion Inquiry and the European Court of Human Rights.

“The loss of a husband, father and son has been compounded by the failure of successive governments to implement an inquiry which makes its findings public and which has the independence to explore the extensive evidence that this killing of a criminal defence lawyer may have taken place with the collusion of the state.

“It is to their shame that this government has joined the ranks of its predecessors in shirking their duty to the Finucanes and to justice.”

In a public statement earlier this week Patrick Finucane’s widow, Geraldine Finucane, said:

“My family and I have campaigned for a long time for a public inquiry. However, we are not prepared to settle for just any form of inquiry. How the process operates is just as important as the establishment of one.”

Amnesty International has long supported the Finucane family’s campaign for justice and, in 2005, Amnesty led a worldwide campaign calling on judges to boycott any non-independent inquiry into Mr Finucane’s murder held under the Inquiries Act 2005.

The review proposed today, to be headed by a QC, is reported to be simply a review of the case files without the effective participation of Patrick Finucane’s family, which falls far short of the effective, thorough and independent inquiry required. 

Background

Patrick Finucane was murdered at his home in Belfast on 12 February 1989. Responsibility for the killing was claimed by an armed group, the Ulster Defence Association/Ulster Freedom Fighters (UDA/UFF).

In the aftermath of Patrick Finucane’s death, extensive and compelling evidence began to emerge that his killing took place within the context of widespread state collusion with armed groups. Since then, further evidence has given rise to strong suspicions that numerous state agencies may have played a part in attempting to cover up state collusion in his murder.
In May 2002, the UK and Irish governments appointed Justice Peter Cory - a former Canadian Supreme Court Judge - to investigate a number of killings in which government security forces were reported to be involved, including the killing of Patrick Finucane.
Justice Cory submitted his reports in October 2003, but it was not until six months later that the UK authorities finally published them, simultaneously announcing the creation of public inquiries into three other cases. However, they refused to announce a public inquiry into Patrick Fincuane's case despite Justice Cory's unequivocal conclusion that, in the case of Patrick Finucane, "only a public inquiry will suffice".

Kenneth Barrett, a former loyalist paramilitary, was convicted in 2003 of the murder of Patrick Finucane. Since he had pleaded guilty to 12 charges, including that of the murder of Patrick Finucane, no significant information about alleged state collusion in the killing or about the alleged subsequent official cover-up emerged in court.

In July 2003 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that “the proceedings following the death of Patrick Finucane failed to provide a prompt and effective investigation into the allegations of collusion by security personnel” , and that there had therefore been a violation of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights in his case.

Also in 2003 Sir John Stevens, a senior UK police officer who carried out three inquiries into allegations of collusion between the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries in Northern Ireland, confirmed that his investigations had uncovered evidence of “collusion, the willful failure to keep records, the absence of accountability, the withholding of intelligence and evidence, and the extreme of agents being involved in murder”. The full findings of the investigations conducted by John Stevens have, however, remained secret, not only from the public but also from the Finucane family and their lawyers.

In June 2007, following an extremely lengthy delay, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for Northern Ireland announced that no further charges would be brought following the review of the material submitted by the third investigation conducted by Sir John Stevens (‘Stevens III’).

Throughout this time the family of Patrick Finucane had campaigned tirelessly for a genuinely independent public inquiry into the circumstances of his death.

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