Stevens report hit by new delay

by Democrat reporter

NEWS THAT the publication of the long-awaited Stevens III report into collusion between loyalist death squads and British security forces has been put back until the autumn has triggered intensified concern among relatives of the victims and their supporters.

The announcement of the delay followed the June screening of two powerful BBC Panorama documentaries alleging widespread collusion in the killing of a number of Catholics from mid-1980 until the early 1990s, including the Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.

Mark Thompson of the Relatives for Justice said that the delay and a statement by secretary of state John Reid confirming that the new PSNI chief constable, Hugh Orde, would be the one to decide whether the finalised report was to be made public raised concerns about the truth being “suppressed and squandered”.

The campaign had been “inundated” with calls from the relatives as a result of these developments, and with good reason, said Mr Thompson.

“Since last December two known agents, involved in state death squads have been found dead. Copious numbers of files and documents directly relating to the day to day running of agents and the work of their handlers — potentially crucial evidence — have allegedly been stolen from Castlereagh.”

Despite ongoing attempts by the security forces and unionists to blame the Castlereagh break-in on republicans, a report in the Guardian newspaper in June had clearly pointed to an ‘inside job’ involving military intelligence and Special Branch.

Early and full publication of the Stevens report, along with his two previous efforts, was now crucial, said Mr Thompson. He called on Tony Blair to “grasp this nettle and stop the stalling tactics” by immediately initiating an independent, international judicial inquiry into the arming, controlling and directing of loyalists by the British state.

“This needs to happen if this peace process is to mean anything, particularly to those people affected by collusion,” he said.

In a related development, retired Canadian High Court judge Peter Cory has been appointed by the British and Irish governments to ‘review’ seven controversial killings involving allegations of collusion.

Cory will oversee investigations into the deaths of solicitors Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson, Portadown Catholic Robert Hamill, LVF leader Billy Wright, Lord Justice Maurice Gibson and his wife Cecily, and two senior RUC officers, Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan. The list of cases to be investigated by the retired judge represents a compromise agreed last year during political talks at Weston Park.

The Finucane family are among those who have opposed the appointment of an international figure to review available evidence and who continue to call for a full public enquiry.

Cory, who has been assured that relevant documents will be made available to him, has admitted that will have no power to subpoena witnesses and will not seek or review evidence regarding related deaths.

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This document was last modified by David Granville on 2002-08-01 11:36:25.
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