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UK: Rights groups call for public inquiries

UK: Rights groups call for public inquiries

Joint Statement from Amnesty International, British Irish Rights Watch, the Committee on the Administration of Justice, Human Rights First and Human Rights Watch

Tomorrow, after an unconscionable delay, the families of Patrick Finucane, Rosemary Nelson, Robert Hamill and Billy Wright will finally receive a copy of the relevant report by Justice Peter Cory in each of the above-mentioned cases of killing involving allegations of state collusion on the part of the UK authorities.

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 case 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 organizations 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.


Justice Peter Cory, a retired Canadian Supreme Court Judge, was appointed by the UK and Irish governments in May 2002 to investigate the killings of human rights lawyers Patrick Finucane and Rosemary Nelson, in 1989 and 1999, respectively; the 1997 sectarian killing of Robert Hamill, a 25-year-old Catholic man; the 1989 killing of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan, two police officers; those of Lord Justice Maurice and Lady Cecily Gibson in 1987; and the 1997 killing of Billy Wright, a leading Loyalist paramilitary, shot dead in the Maze prison.

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