Human Rights First Challenges New UK Leadership to Make Good on Finucane Inquiry Promises
NEW YORK – Human Rights First today sent a letter to senior members of Gordon Brown’s new administration urging them to ensure that an independent and public inquiry into the murder of Patrick Finucane is established without further delay.
“For more than a decade, Human Rights First has been calling for an independent inquiry into official collusion in Finucane’s murder. The Blair administration left office having failed to deliver on its commitment to fulfill the recommendations of Judge Cory. It is time for an end to the cover-up,” said Maureen Byrnes, Executive Director of Human Rights First. “The new leadership has the power. We want to know: does it have the will?”
Reform in Northern Ireland should be accompanied by thorough examination of official collusion in serious violations of human rights. Only if such inquiries are transparent and independent will there be public faith in their conclusions.
On February 12, 1989, Patrick Finucane was shot fourteen times by loyalist paramilitaries in front of his wife and children in his home in Belfast, Northern Ireland. In the aftermath of his killing, Human Rights First conducted investigations into the circumstances of the murder and summarized its findings in a 2003 report, Beyond Collusion: The U.K. Security Forces and the Murder of Patrick Finucane. In addition, different government agencies and government authorities, including the police, the British Army, MI5 and the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland are implicated in an apparent attempt to cover-up official involvement in the killing.
In 2001, the British and Irish governments agreed at Weston Park that preliminary investigations should take place into the killings of eight individuals where official collusion had been alleged. They appointed Justice Peter Cory – a former Canadian Supreme Court Judge – to conduct these investigations. Justice Cory submitted his reports in October 2003, but it was not until six months later that the U.K. authorities finally published them. In November 2004, the terms of reference for the public inquiries in three of the four cases, along with the names of the panel members who would hold the hearings. At the time, the British government claimed that no inquiry into Finucane’s death could be announced until the outcome of pending prosecutions in the case.
On September 16, 2004, Kenneth Barrett, a former paramilitary, was convicted of the murder of Patrick Finucane after entering a guilty plea on the first day of his trial. Observers at his trial confirmed that “Kenneth Barrett’s guilty plea led to no significant information being made public during the court case; criminal proceedings have clearly been insufficient in getting at the full truth of the Finucane case.”
On June 25, 2007, the Public Prosecutor’s office issued a statement following its own investigation that it would not be filing charges against government officers in Finucane’s killing.