Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Testimony :: Jane Winter
Director - British Irish Rights Watch



14 MARCH 2000,



I am the Director of British Irish RIGHTS WATCH, an independent non-governmental organisation that
has been monitoring the human rights dimension of the conflict, and latterly the peace process, in
Northern Ireland since 1990. Our services are available free of charge to anyone whose human
rights have been violated because of the conflict, regardless of religious, political or community
affiliations. We take no position on the eventual constitutional outcome of the conflict.

We welcome this opportunity to address the Commission on Security and Co-operation in Europe
concerning the murders of Patrick Finucane and Rosemary Nelson. Chairman Smith has shown
consistent and well-informed concern about these matters over a number of years, for which we are
extremely grateful, and we also thank the members of this honourable Commission for their interest.
We have monitored both these cases in depth and have produced reports about them that are
available on our website, which I request be read into the record of these proceedings. Since my
colleague Paul Mageean will speak about the murder of Rosemary Nelson, I will confine my
submission to Patrick Finucane.

In February last year, ten years after his murder, we presented a confidential report to the British
and Irish governments concerning the murder of Patrick Finucane and others. We also sent the
report to the United Nations. It was based on documents seen by us which appeared to be genuine
British army intelligence reports. These documents suggested that a secret unit within army
intelligence, the Force Research Unit or FRU, had been conspiring with loyalist paramilitaries to
target Catholics for murder. Although those targeted were supposed to be known republicans,
themselves involved in violence, many of those who died as a result of this alleged policy were, like
Patrick Finucane, completely uninvolved. As a human rights group, we would say that in a
democracy no state agency should ever participate in illegal acts, especially not the murder of its
own citizens, whatever their alleged crimes, but it is especially worrying when wholly innocent
people die in such circumstances. Our research suggested that many people may have been
targeted for murder over a period of years. One of the outstanding questions concerning the
activities of FRU is that of who sanctioned its activities and at how high a level in the security forces
or the government that decision was made.

When we presented our report to the British government, we were promised a swift response.
Thirteen months later we are still waiting. We had said to the government that we believed that their
own files would reveal whether there was any truth in the shocking allegations we were making. We
asked them to review their files in the belief that, if there was any truth in our allegations, they would
have no option but to hold a full judicial public inquiry. To the best of our knowledge, they have not
conducted any such review. Significantly, neither have they issued any rebuttal of our allegations.

We understand that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, to whom we delivered the report,
passed a copy to the Director of Public Prosecutions. He in turn gave a copy to the Chief Constable
of the RUC, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, who, without reference to the Secretary of State, called in Sir
John Stevens to conduct a third police investigation. We were puzzled by this, as we had been told
by Sir John that he had already investigated the murder. However, he has since raised doubt about
whether he was authorised to investigate fully on previous occasions. Of greater concern, though,
was our conclusion that the Chief Constable had set up a further police investigation in order to
thwart a public inquiry. The government now says that it must wait for the outcome of Stevens'
investigation before deciding whether to hold an inquiry. However, Amnesty International has
commissioned a legal opinion from leading experts, who maintain that all the criteria for a public
inquiry are met in the case of Patrick Finucane and that the police investigation is no impediment. I
request that Amnesty's legal opinion be read into the record.

Since then there have been a number of developments. Books have been published confirming the
existence of the FRU. One of these, "1033" by Nicholas Davies, has alleged that former Prime
Minister Margaret Thatcher took a personal interest in the work of the FRU. He also details a
number of victims whom he says were targeted by FRU. Newspaper interviews with a former FRU
operative, who calls himself Martin Ingram, have alleged that army intelligence personnel sought to
destroy Stevens' first police investigation by burning down his office.

Most startling has been the arrest by Stevens of loyalist Billy Stobie, who has been charged with the
murder of Patrick Finucane. He freely admits that he supplied the weapons used in the murder.
However, he also says that he was an informer for RUC Special Branch at the time of the murder.
He claims that he told his police handlers that named loyalists had asked him to supply weapons for
a high-profile murder. Although he says that he did not know the intended victim, he gave the RUC
sufficient information to put the perpetrators under surveillance and prevent the murder. It has
transpired that he was arrested in 1990 and questioned by the RUC about the murder, and that he
told them all of this information then. The Director of Public Prosecutions decided not to prosecute
him. There has been no material change in circumstances since then, yet now Stevens has arrested
him. It seems very likely that he will have a strong defence on grounds of abuse of process.

It has also emerged that Stobie told his story to a respected journalist, Ed Maloney, back in 1990,
as an insurance policy should he ever be arrested again. Sir John Stevens went to great lengths to
try to force Moloney through the courts to give up his original notes of his interviews with Stobie.
Moloney refused to do so, citing the journalists' code of ethics about protection of their sources.
Eventually, the courts found in favour of Moloney, but his career could have been ruined and he
could have ended up in jail. He has since won awards for his courage and integrity.

A few weeks ago we published a second report setting out all the developments since we delivered
our first report to the two governments, a copy of which I request be read into the record. It covered
the events I have just described and also raised serious questions about the role of the Director of
Public Prosecutions, who appears to have dropped charges against some defendants, and done
deals with others, the effect of which has been to prevent the truth about the murder of Patrick
Finucane emerging in court.

On 24th February we presented this report to the Irish Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern. He responded
immediately by calling publicly for a full inquiry into the murder of Patrick Finucane. We are most
grateful for his support. There may be those who fear that such statements at this time may be
detrimental to the peace process in Northern Ireland, which is very fragile at the moment. However,
we believe that peace will never fully take hold in Northern Ireland while landmark cases such as the
murder of Patrick Finucane remain unresolved.

The brutal and callous murder of Rosemary Nelson - to whose courage and memory I pay the
warmest personal tribute - shows that, unless measures are taken to deal with our allegations,
lawyers in Northern Ireland will continue to be at risk. Lawyers cannot choose their clients, yet they
risk being murdered, notwithstanding the ceasefires, because certain clients choose them. The
poisoned atmosphere that gave rise to her murder, and to that of Patrick Finucane must be
dispelled, and dispelled for good, so that lawyers in Northern Ireland can go about their daily
business without fearing for their lives.

British Irish rights watch has made serious allegations of security force collusion in a large number
of deaths and other illegal acts, of which the murder of Patrick Finucane is but the tip of an iceberg.
We have said that he died because of systematic policies adopted by the security services
involving British military intelligence and the RUC. There is also considerable evidence of an official

The overriding question that emerges from this murkiest of pictures is that of who sanctioned those
policies. If what we allege is true, then the lives of many people in Northern Ireland have been
damaged, and in some cases destroyed, by the actions of agents of the state. This is not an issue
that can be swept under the carpet. Its aftermath will go on polluting the atmosphere in Northern
Ireland and making a successful resolution of the peace process more difficult. If people cannot trust
the police, the army, the courts, DPP, or ultimately the government, how can they be expected to
have faith in society itself? What is to become of the rule of law?

There is only one honourable response to the allegations we have made, and substantiated to the
best of our ability. The government, which already has under its control all the answers to the
questions we have raised, must establish an independent judicial inquiry without any further
prevarication. The British government cannot hold itself up as an example to other countries around
the world if it does not practice respect for human rights at home.

We hope that the Commission will help us to persuade the British government of the necessity of
taking resolute action to resolve the murders of these two lawyers and to protect other lawyers in
Northern Ireland. There are three things we want our government to do:

1. to instigate an immediate public, independent, judicial inquiry into the murder of Patrick

2. to do the same in relation to the murder of Rosemary Nelson; and

3. to implement in full the recommendations of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the
Independence of Judges and Lawyers.

We respectfully request the Commission to consider making the following interventions:

a. send a letter to Prime Minister Tony Blair urging him to hold inquiries into the murders of Patrick
Finucane and Rosemary Nelson and to implement the United Nations' recommendations;

b. use every opportunity within the OSCE process to raise these issues with the British government
and to make other governments aware of these issues;

c. raise these matters privately with the British government at political and official levels; and

d. send a delegation to Northern Ireland to assess progress on political, economic and human rights
issues, including particularly these issues.

I thank this honourable Commission for its time and attention.