February 22, 2017Pat Finucane Northern Ireland Accountability and Access to Justice
Today, the Court of Appeal in Belfast upheld as lawful the decision of the UK Government not to hold a public inquiry into the murder of human rights solicitor, Pat Finucane. The solicitor was 39 years old when he was shot dead in front of his wife and three children by loyalist paramilitaries. This month marks the 28th anniversary of his death.
The Government has previously apologised to the Finucane family, acknowledging that his death involved collusion between the UK Government and loyalist paramilitaries, and promising the family a public inquiry. However, despite the apology and the acknowledgement of state collusion, the Government reneged on that promise, instead commissioning a case review of the papers in 2012.
In 2015, the High Court described the State’s collusion in Pat Finucane’s murder as “abominations which amounted to the most conspicuously bad, glaring and flagrant breach of the obligation of the state to protect the life of its citizen and to ensure the rule of law.” The Court also found that for over two decades significant and relevant information about the murder of Pat Finucane has been withheld by the Government from Pat Finucane’s family and the Department of Public Prosecutions. In spite of these findings, the High Court held that the decision of the UK Government not to hold a public inquiry was lawful.
Geraldine Finucane, widow of Pat Finucane, appealed the ruling of the High Court to the Court of Appeal. She argued that an independent inquiry into the murder must be undertaken in order to investigate the allegations of the state collusion, as promised by the UK Government in the peace process negotiations. However, whilst the Court of Appeal acknowledged that a pledge to hold an inquiry had been made, they upheld the Government’s right to balance public interest factors, such as costs. It was, therefore, open to the Government to commission a review of the case papers rather than hold a public inquiry.
Yasmine Ahmed, Director of Rights Watch (UK) commented:
“Rights Watch (UK) is extremely disappointed that the Finucane family have once again been denied the public inquiry that they deserve. Twenty-eight years have now passed since the murder of Pat Finucane and still there is no justice. Despite acknowledgements of state collusion in this murder, to date, there has only been a paper-based review of the case. As the Human Rights Committee held in 2015, paper-based reviews in place of a full public inquiry are inadequate. If the truth is to be unearthed, it will only be through a full public inquiry.”
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