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Northern Ireland: Amnesty welcomes inquest into army 'death squad" killings

Amnesty International has welcomed the granting of new inquests into the deaths of Patrick McVeigh and Daniel Rooney, killed in drive-by shootings in Belfast in 1972, allegedly by undercover soldiers from the Military Reaction Force (MRF).

Amnesty was extremely critical of a PSNI decision earlier this year not to conduct an investigation into the activities of the Military Reaction Force (MRF), revealed in a BBC Panorama programme - Britain's Secret Terror Force - broadcast in November 2013, which identified ten unarmed civilians allegedly shot dead by the shadowy army unit. The PSNI subsequently agreed to conduct a full investigation and to attempt to identify the soldiers involved.

Now Northern Ireland's Attorney General, John Larkin QC, has granted fresh inquests in the case of two of the deaths - that of Daniel Rooney, aged 18, killed in September 1972 and Patrick McVeigh, aged 44, killed in  May 1972. The soldiers responsible could be compelled to give evidence to the inquests.

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland Programme Director of Amnesty International, said:

"The ordering of new inquests by the Attorney General into these killings is an important step which could help to shed new light on this murky episode from the past.

"However, isolated inquests are no substitute for a thorough criminal investigation into what appears to have been a pattern of such killings carried out by an undercover army unit operating in Belfast in the early 1970s. Inquests into legacy cases have themselves all too often been riddled with problems of endemic delay, inadequate disclosure, under-resourcing and limited scope.

"This announcement underlines the need for Northern Ireland's politicians, with the involvement of the British and Irish governments, to agree a new comprehensive mechanism to investigate human rights abuses in Northern Ireland, whether carried out by the security forces or paramilitary groups.

"Political leaders have a collective responsibility which they must not shirk. All victims and bereaved family members have a right to truth and justice, and their elected representatives must do all they can to ensure that victims can access their rights."

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