It's time for the truth

by Peter Madden

THE FINUCANE family’s long campaign to find the hidden truth behind the UDA murder of Pat Finucane, seems set to continue, despite the Weston Park proposal of the appointment of an international judge to “thoroughly investigate” six cases, including Pat’s case.

Make no mistake about it. This is not the public judicial inquiry that the family has been campaigning for. It is not the public inquiry that the family are entitled to. This is a private, behind closed doors, judicial investigation similar to the Dublin/Monaghan investigation and probably does not meet the requirements of European Convention on Human Rights. Human rights commissioner, Brice Dickson has recently said so.

The six cases: the killings of Pat Finucane, Rosemary Nelson, Robert Hamill, Billy Wright, Bob Buchanan and Harry Breen, and Lord Justice Maurice Gibson and his wife Cecily, have been highlighted by the two governments as representing nationalist and unionist concerns about state involvement in murder.

Nationalist and unionist leaders have also highlighted these cases. They are cases of “urgent public importance”. What could be more important than allegations of a state’s involvement in the murder of its own citizens?

In British law, if a matter is of “urgent public importance” and has been passed by both houses of parliament then a public inquiry under the Tribunals of Inquiry Act 1921 must be established. Such an inquiry will have all the powers of the High Court to call for relevant material and subpoena relevant witnesses who can be questioned in public.

If the two governments and the local political leaders have highlighted these cases then why not establish public inquiries in these cases immediately? Why go to the time and expense of appointing a judge to hold six private investigations, particularly if it is likely that full public inquiries will be set up afterwards? It doesn’t make any sense.

Unless, of course, the real reason for the appointment is delay or, more concerning to the Finucane family, if the real reason is to prevent the establish a full public judicial inquiry by the establishment of something less in the guise of something more.

The Finucane family want the truth. They don’t want a report from a judge who examines the facts in secret and then publishes a report which purports to be the truth. The facts should be examined in public where the family can challenge any purported explanation or denial. They are entitled to have an input into the calling of relevant evidence and the questioning of relevant witnesses.They will be able to do none of this if the Weston Park proposals are implemented.

It will take a very long time for any judge to “thoroughly investigate” six complex cases. That is why the Finucane family see this effort as a cynical exercise in delaying or attempting to prevent the inevitable.

hey took the same view when John Stevens was appointed, for the third time, to re investigate Pat’s murder. The family decided to treat the Stevens police investigation as a delaying tactic and the public can decide if the family took the correct approach.

The third Stevens investigation or Stevens 3, as it is known, resulted in a delay of three years. A trial resulted in which Billy Stobie was acquitted. He was subsequently murdered. The Stevens report, whether published or not will instil no confidence that Pat’s case was thoroughly investigated no more than the establishment of a judge to privately investigate the same thing in which the family have no meaningful input.

The Finucane family were not informed that Pat’s case was going to be used by the two governments as a “bargaining chip” in the peace process.

The case has been the subject of a high profile campaign for thirteen years.

What is emerging and what is now in the public domain is a picture of the British government’s involvement in the murder of its own citizens. The British military unit which directed Brian Nelson who directed the UDA, was apparently involved in hundreds of murders of nationalists and republicans, including that of Pat Finucane. That is the allegation. That allegation has been published time and time again by many investigative journalists.

Pat Finucane was subjected to death threats from RUC officers in Castlereagh interrogation centre prior to his murder. These threats were documented prior to his murder. Douglas Hogg, the British Home Office minister made a statement in the House of Commons that some solicitors were sympathetic to the IRA, three weeks before the murder.

Pat was murdered with a British Army browning pistol. Brian Nelson, the British army agent , who directed the murder, was directed by the secret British Army unit, the Force Research Unit (FRU). Billy Stobie, who was an RUC agent provided the weapons for the murder.

In 1999 on the 10th anniversary of Pat’s murder, British Irish Rights Watch compiled a report which included copies of British military documentation. The documents contained information which led to the clear conclusion that the military unit ( the FRU) were involved in conspiracy to murder.

The report was handed to the British government with a request to authenticate the documents. So far they have not refuted the allegation that the documents are genuine. The disturbing thing is that they have not denied that such a conspiracy existed.

The European Court rulings last May (Jordan, McKerr, Shanaghan, and Kelly v UK ) severely criticised the British government for their failure to provide a proper investigative process for hundreds of cases involving state or loyalist killings.

The six cases highlighted at Weston Park are not the only cases in which there are serious concerns about state involvement in murder. The four cases taken to Strasbourg were representative of hundreds of cases which, over a thirty year period, were not properly investigated.

Tony Blair said, when he established the Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday, that: “Bloody Sunday was different because, where the state’s own authorities are concerned, we must be as sure as we can of the truth, precisely because we pride ourselves on our democracy and respect for the law, and on the professionalism and dedication of our security forces.”

The Finucane family and other human rights organisations such as the Human Rights Commission do not regard the Weston Park proposals as satisfying the requirements of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

They do not see why they have to get over another hurdle.The campaign will continue. The family will continue to seek support. They have waited long enough for the truth. Pat Finucane in his short career sought justice for a large number of people. He was too successful.

I have to play my part in seeking justice for him. I owe him that at least.


Joint NGO statement

WE, THE undersigned international and domestic NGOs, deplore the UK government’s failure to initiate a public judicial inquiry into the full circumstances of the killing of human rights lawyer Patrick Finucane 13 years ago.

Patrick Finucane was shot dead on 12 February 1989 by Loyalist paramilitaries; since then, evidence has emerged which strongly suggests that there was official collusion by both the army and the police in his killing, and a subsequent cover-up. The UK government has steadfastly resisted repeated calls for a public judicial inquiry into all aspects of his killing, including the allegations of collusion and cover-up.

Calls for an inquiry have come from the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, international and domestic NGOs, the Finucane family, the House of Representatives of the US Congress, the Irish government, and over two thousand national and international lawyers.

Despite the ongoing police investigation into Patrick Finucane’s killing -— which to date has not resulted in successful prosecutions against any of those involved —- we continue to urge the UK government to establish immediately such an inquiry because we believe that it is the only mechanism which could provide an effective and public investigation into the serious allegations in this case.

William Stobie, a key witness in connection with the case, was murdered in December 2001, and other key witnesses are in fear for their lives. Vital evidence has already disappeared. We are particularly concerned that the longer the government deliberately delays, the greater the risk that the future public inquiry will be hampered.

Amnesty International, British Irish Rights Watch, Committee on the Administration of Justice, Human Rights Watch, International Commission of Jurists, International Federation for Human Rights, Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, Liberty, Pat Finucane Centre, Relatives for Justice, Scottish Human Rights Centre.

A joint statement renewing their calls for an independent inquiry was also released by the Law Society (England and Wales), the Law Society of Northern Ireland and the Human Rights Committee of the Bar Council (Northern Ireland)

To collusion and beyond

by Democrat reporter

PERHAPS THE most cogent evidence in support of a fully-independent inquiry into Finucane’s murder is contained in a new report published by the US Lawyers Committee for Human Rights.

Beyond Collusion, the group’s third report in ten years into the circumstances of Finucane’s death, focuses on its most disturbing aspect of the killing — British state involvement. “The evidence that has emerged over this period extends far beyond isolated acts of collusion by individual members of the security forces and implicates the very foundations of the government’s security policy in Northern Ireland,” the report concludes.

The report, which brings together details disclosed gradually over the last 13 years, also includes important new information about state involvement including:

  • that RUC interrogation notes confirm that the RUC double agent prosecuted for Finucane’s murder in 1999, William Stobie, made significant admissions about his involvement in 1990;
  • claims by former member (Martin Ingram) of the covert British army unit the Force Research Unit that both the army and the police knew about the UDA’s targeting of Finucane — including details of two earlier UDA plans to assassinate Finucane about which the solicitor was not warned;
  • details provided by a recently-retired CID officer, Johnston Brown, about threats he received from officers in the RUC’s intelligence division following attempts to prosecute a prominent loyalist who had confessed to being one of two gunmen involved in the murder. The report recommends:
  • Abandoning the ‘Weston Park’ proposal for a “judge of international standing from outside both jurisdictions (British and Irish) to undertake a thorough investigation of collusion” in the murder of Pat Finucane and five other controversial cases — the US lawyers’ group fears that proposal will prevent the truth from emerging for many more years;
  • The immediate establishment of a public inquiry on the basis that official investigations have so far failed to satisfy the requirements under international law — this stipulates that investigations must be carried out independently from the security forces implicated in the killings;
  • The government to commit to the accountability and reform of the security services — the failure of the police and security forces to publicly uncover the truth undercuts the government’s commitment to fundamental principles of democratic accountability, the report concludes.

The full reportBeyond Collusion: the UK security forces and the murder of Pat Finucane — and other reports can be found at the website of the Pat Finucane Centre at

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This document was last modified by David Granville on 2002-03-30 14:36:04.
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