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Northern Ireland: Amnesty joins call for inquiry into Pat Finucane murder as deadline approaches

Letter to Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis adds to escalating pressure on Government as deadline approaches

‘The Government’s failure, after 31 years, to establish an independent judicial inquiry into the full circumstances of the murder, fuel the perception of a continued cover-up of the full extent of official involvement in the killing’ – Kate Allen

Amnesty International has today written to Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis calling on him to establish a public inquiry into the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, adding to the escalating pressure on the UK government to institute the inquiry as the end of the month deadline approaches.

Mr Finucane, 39, was shot in front of his family in 1989 by loyalist paramilitaries acting in collusion with the British security forces. Amnesty has supported the Finucane family’s quest for accountability ever since.

In February last year, the Supreme Court ruled that investigations into the fatal shooting of the solicitor have not been effective and fell short of international human rights standards. Amnesty warned in the letter that it is vital for public confidence in the rule of law that the Government now moves swiftly to discharge its responsibilities in establishing an independent public inquiry following the Supreme Court ruling.

In the letter Amnesty UK Director Kate Allen, said:

“The murder of a lawyer in the UK, with the state actively colluding in that murder, is one of the darkest chapters of this country's recent history.

“It falls to you, as Northern Ireland Secretary of State, to help close that chapter by setting up the public inquiry which the UK Government long ago promised.

“Evidence of collusion can only be fully and impartially investigated by a judicial inquiry which has full powers of subpoena of witnesses and disclosure of documents.

“The Government’s failure, after 31 years, to establish an independent judicial inquiry into the full circumstances of the murder, fuel the perception of a continued cover-up of the full extent of official involvement in the killing.”

Patrick Finucane, a prominent criminal defence and civil rights lawyer, was shot 14 times by loyalist paramilitaries at his Belfast home on 12 February 1989. The attack took place in front of his wife and three children.

The Ulster Defence Association/Ulster Freedom Fighters (UDA/UFF) claimed responsibility for the attack. Since then, however, extensive and compelling evidence has emerged which shows that security personnel colluded with loyalist paramilitary groups in his killing.

In 2011, the UK government ordered a paper-based review of the available evidence by Sir Desmond de Silva QC. The de Silva report identified a number of ways in which the state and its agents colluded in the Finucane killing, including: leaking information to loyalist paramilitaries, amongst them the UDA; failing to act on information that Finucane was under threat of attack by loyalist paramilitaries; playing “key roles” in the actual killing, including by facilitating access to the murder weapon; refusing to investigate, arrest and prosecute UDA operatives at the time, despite evidence of their criminality; and covering up collusion in the killing for more than two decades.

In December 2012, then Prime Minister David Cameron acknowledged “shocking levels of state collusion” in the killing of Patrick Finucane, and apologised publicly to the family.

Notwithstanding these acknowledgments, the UK Government has continued to refuse to allow a public inquiry into the killing.

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