House Committee Approves Finucane Resolution
The day after the release of a devastating report detailing collusion between a Protestant paramilitary organization and police in Northern Ireland, the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee today approved a resolution introduced by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) calling on the government of the of the United Kingdom to begin a full "independent public judicial" investigation of the murder of Northern Ireland defense attorney Pat Finucane.
"Pat Finucane was a courageous human rights activist and a loving father and husband. It is imperative that the questions surrounding Mr. Finucane's murder are answered in order to restore full confidence in the rule of law in the north of Ireland. Any agents of the government who may have colluded in the murder of a defense attorney must be held accountable," said Smith, the author of three separate bills regarding human rights abuses by the police force in Northern Ireland.
In 1989, Patrick Finucane, a human rights attorney, was gunned down in his home in Belfast as his wife and three children watched. Numerous non-governmental human rights organizations have connected loyalist paramilitaries and British Security forces to his horrific murder.
Among other things, Smith's resolution specifically calls on the British government to "reconsider its position on the matter of an inquiry into the murder of Mr. Finucane, to amend the Inquiries Act of 2005, and to take fully into account the objections raised by the Finucane family." Smith's resolutionH.Con.Res. 20is now cleared for consideration by the House of Representatives.
"For years, numerous international bodies and nongovernmental human rights organizations have raised allegations that Mr. Finucane's murder resulted from collusion between loyalist paramilitaries and British security forces," Smith said during the Committee's consideration of the resolution. "In 2004, retired Canadian Supreme Court Judge Peter Cory, who was appointed by the Governments of Ireland and the United Kingdom to examine these allegations under the Weston Park Agreement, reported that sufficient evidence of collusion existed to warrant a full, independent and public judiciary inquiry without delay. Unfortunately, the British government has yet to comply."
In 2001, as part of the Weston Park Agreement and in an attempt to help jump start the stalled Good Friday Agreement, the British and Irish governments pledged to follow Cory's recommendation. After public release of the Cory report in 2004, the United Kingdom enacted legislation that limits the scope of an independent investigation. The legislation was subsequently rejected by Judge Cory, the Finucane family, the Irish Government and human rights groups.
Smithwho has held eleven hearings on the peace process in Northern Ireland during his tenure as chairman of the subcommittee on human rights and as chairman of the Helsinki Commissionsaid that it is vital to the peace process that human rights abuses by members of the police service in Northern Ireland are investigated.
"During Congressional hearings, the one theme that kept recurring was the ongoing concern about human rights abuses by members of the police service in Northern Ireland. The concerns about collusion may never be put to rest without a full investigation into the possibility of collusion in the Finucane murder," said Smith.
The report released yesterday by the police ombudsman is the culmination of a three-year investigation. It details collusion between Northern Ireland police and criminals in dozens of violent attacks and murders of Catholics from the 1990's all the way to 2003. The report's release comes at a time when tensions are high as members of Sinn Fein prepare to vote on whether to support the Northern Ireland police, a key step in the peace process.
"A stumbling block to greater acceptance of the police by the community has been that the charges of official collusion in the murders of people such as Mr. Finucane remain unresolved. People are hesitant to move forward if they are not confident that those guilty of abuses will be held accountable. As I have emphasized in other areas of conflict, there can be no peace without justice," said Smith.