Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Testimony :: Hon. Benjamin L. Cardin
Ranking Member - Helsinki Commission

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The Helsinki Commission and its members have long been dedicated to the promotion of respect for human rights, including in the broader sense of democratic governance and adherence to the rule of law. In this effort, we have a certain obligation to look at all countries in the OSCE region, including our own and our closest friends and allies. We also have an interest, because a consistent approach to human rights enhances our credibility in all countries of concern.

I am, therefore, very interested in our focus today on the investigations of former Canadian Supreme Court Justice Peter Cory into six prominent murder cases relating to Northern Ireland. While these cases and the way in which they are most appropriately resolved may differ from other cases we confront, like the war crimes which occurred in the Balkans, for example, two words are common to them all – truth and justice.

Former Justice Cory, I want to thank you for your dedication to truth and justice, which is evident in the reports on the investigations you undertook. They reveal that truth and justice is essential not just for governments, not just for courts, but for people to realize and understand, regardless of whether they are the perpetrators, the victims or the larger society in which these crimes took place. I hope that the UK and Irish Governments, and all political players in Northern Ireland, will act upon your conclusions and recommendations, and allow truth and justice to prevail.

I also welcome the fact that the wife of one of the murder victims, Geraldine Finucane, will testify today. In my view, the wishes of surviving family members are of paramount importance. I also want to thank you, Ms. Finucane, for your courage and dedication to truth and justice over what have been difficult years for you personally and for Northern Ireland. If not for you, and people like you, it is doubtful that former Justice Cory would have received his appointment and mandate. You helped keep the issue of these murder cases on the table.

Of course, the long-awaited, completed investigation and delivery of the reports last October, and their publication by the Irish Government last December and the UK Government about one month ago, do not mean this matter has come to an end. A new phase now begins. Public inquiries need to be organized and effectively carried out. Another common characteristic of our work on the Helsinki Commission is to ensure that agreements are implemented and that follow-up actions are taken, and I believe the Commission will work to encourage implementation and action in these cases, as we have in so many other issues which confront us in our work.