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Northern Ireland: Rights groups call for public inquiries

Amnesty International, British Irish Rights Watch, the Committee on the Administration of Justice, Human Rights First and Human Rights Watch strongly believe that the public inquiries which Judge Cory has recommended in each of the above-mentioned cases can only be effective in uncovering the truth and finally allaying public concern about allegations of state collusion if they are capable of enlisting the support and cooperation of the families concerned, and the confidence of the general public.

In light of this, the five human rights non-governmental organisations call on the UK authorities to ensure that the establishment of each of the four inquiries comply with the following:

  • in the immediate aftermath of the publication of each report, the UK authorities should commit themselves to the prompt establishment of four separate public inquiries, as recommended by Justice Cory;
  • the UK authorities should also proceed to a prompt consultation with each family concerned so as to establish accurately their views with respect to the inquiry into the killing of their deceased relative;
  • each inquiry should be established, constituted and conducted in such as way as to ensure its competence, independence and impartiality. It is paramount not only that each inquiry be independent and impartial but that it also be seen to be so;
  • the inquiries should be conducted in public, and ensure the maximum possible participation of the families concerned;
  • the inquiries must be empowered to compel discovery and disclosure of documents, as well as subpoena powers to compel the attendance of witnesses; and
  • the reports of the inquiry should be made public.

While in December 2003 the Irish government published the two reports which Justice Cory had submitted to them the previous October, and simultaneously announced, as recommended by the judge, the establishment of a public inquiry under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921, into the killing of Royal Ulster Constabulary officers Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan, the UK authorities have so far failed to publish the four reports submitted to them by Justice Cory in October 2003.

The families in the Northern Irish cases were forced early in the year to issue judicial review proceedings in the High Court in Belfast on account of the UK authorities' failure to publish their reports.

Furthermore, frustrated by the UK authorities' failure to publish his reports in the Northern Irish cases, Justice Cory publicly confirmed that he had recommended four separate public inquiries into the Northern Irish cases.

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