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Smith Calls for Independent Inquiry of 1989 Murder of Human Rights Lawyer in Northern Ireland

Press Release

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Location: Washington, DC

Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-4), Chairman of the US Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission) today reiterated the urgent call for the British government to launch a full, independent, and public judicial inquiry into the 1989 murder of human rights lawyer Patrick Finucane without further delay.

Smith, a leading American human rights lawmaker, chaired a Helsinki Commission hearing, "Northern Ireland: Why Justice in Individual Cases Matters," in mid-March and met with Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, to underscore the bipartisan American support for a independent, public an inquiry. A decision on the matter was expected in early May following elections in the region.

"The time has come for the British authorities to undertake a credible and comprehensive inquiry into the murder of Patrick Finucane, including the possibility of collusion between British security forces and paramilitaries," said Smith, who has chaired a dozen U.S. hearings on peace and justice in Northern Ireland since the mid-1990s. "I stand in solidarity with the Finucane family which has long sought the truth in the case and accountability for those responsible for this crime."

Chairman Smith wrote to Paterson in April emphasizing the need for decisive action in the Finucane case. He was joined by half a dozen other key Members of the U.S. House of Representatives in the appeal. "Clearly, this case warrants an inquiry along the lines outlined by the family and recommended by Judge Cory. Failure to hold such an inquiry would have disastrous consequences for public confidence in the willingness of government to hold itself accountable," wrote Smith and his colleagues.

The U.S. Congress is on record as calling for such an inquiry, based on laws and resolutions sponsored by Smith and supported on a bipartisan basis on Capitol Hill as well as by Republican and Democratic Administrations.

"Hopes of meaningful action on the Finucane case have been raised before by the British government only to be dashed," Smith said. "Nearly a decade after the Weston Park Agreement, at which the British committed to undertake an inquiry into certain cases from the past, including that of Patrick Finucane, and seven years since the release of the Cory Report which called for such an inquiry, the Finucane family and their supporters are still waiting for justice to be served. While press reports suggest a possible official announcement soon, the terms governing an inquiry will be crucial," stressed Smith.

"The inquiry must be as our friends in the British government first promised in 2001: comprehensive, pubic, independent, in order to sustain the confidence of the people of Northern Ireland as well as supporter around the world of the Good Friday Agreement. Secretary Paterson has power to, at long last, put an end to the obfuscation and impunity surrounding the Finucane case. Justice postponed in justice denied," Smith concluded.


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