COMMISSION ON SECURITY AND COOPERATION IN EUROPE
Statement of Eunan Magee
14th March 00
Thank you for your invitation to testify here today. I am Eunan Magee and Rosemary Nelson was my
sister. She was murdered one year ago tomorrow. I am leaving Washington tonight and returning to
be with my family for the anniversary.
My sister was a lawyer. Obviously we, as a family were very proud of her.
Rosemary was a good lawyer. She represented her clients, from both sides of the community in
Northern Ireland, to the best of her ability. That is why she was subject to harassment and to threats
made by police officers and others. That is also why she was killed.
She was a courageous lawyer. She was the first female lawyer to set up her own practice in Lurgan,
the town where we grew up. When clients started to come to her with controversial cases linked to
the conflict in Northern Ireland, she took their cases and worked tirelessly on behalf of those clients.
When she started to get threats and abuse, she did not stop representing her clients to the best of
her ability. Indeed, if anything, the intimidation seemed to act as a spur which ensured that she
would not give up.
Although we were aware that there were problems between Rosemary and the police, we were not
aware of the extent of the intimidation and harassment she suffered. We have been taken aback in
the aftermath of her death to discover the fact that she had been subject to a sustained campaign of
death threats and abuse at the hands of the police.
Rosemary was always outraged that those who abused positions of power were not held to
account. She attempted to ensure that such people were brought to account, whether that be police
officers, government officials or others. My family are concerned that those involved in threatening
Rosemary, in failing to protect her and in murdering her will not be held to account. Our concerns
have been highlighted by what has happened in relation to the investigation of her complaints and
also by the lack of success to date in the investigation into her murder.
Rosemary of course complained about the abuse that she suffered. In addition to reporting the
threats to human rights groups, she also testified before the Subcommittee on International
Operations and Human Rights. During that testimony she revealed that an English police officer had
been called in to investigate official complaints she had made due to the inability of the RUC to
handle her complaints impartially. The report compiled by that English police officer was sent to the
Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland and shortly before Christmas, he announced that
he was not going to prosecute the officers involved. Although the RUC are now considering whether
to subject those officers to disciplinary action, we are not hopeful that this will happen. There are
also other ongoing complaints which were made by Rosemary. These have yet to be completed but
we are again not confident that they will result in effective action being taken against police either in
terms of criminal prosecution or disciplinary sanction.
Rosemary also told the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and
Lawyers about the harassment and intimidation she had suffered. He conducted a fact finding
mission to Northern Ireland and met with Rosemary and many other solicitors who had been subject
to similar intimidation and threats. He was so concerned about her personal safety that he drew
specific attention to her case when he reported on the intimidation of defence lawyers in Northern
Ireland to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in March 1998. We are also aware that
he communicated his concerns about Rosemary's safety to the attention of the United Kingdom
government. We know that human rights groups also communicated their concern and yet we are
not aware of any action that was taken by either the government or the police in order to safeguard
Rosemary's life. We are told that the police carried out a risk assessment on Rosemary and
decided that there was no significant risk. They were clearly wrong.
It now seems to us that those in government or in the police who did nothing to safeguard Rosemary
and indeed those police officers who were involved in threatening and harassing her will not be held
to account. We believe that if they are not held to account, the harassment and intimidation of
defence lawyers in Northern Ireland will continue.
We are also concerned that those who murdered Rosemary may also not be held to account. The
investigation into her murder is being led by a senior English police officer named Colin Port.
Although he remains convinced that he will eventually track down those involved in the murder of
Rosemary, he had until last week not made any arrests. According to newspaper reports on Friday
10th March, two individuals were being questioned about Rosemary's murder by the Port team. One
of those individuals has now been released. There have been press reports that the individual who
is still being detained was a member of the Royal Irish Regiment, a regiment of the British Army, at
the time of the murder.
In addition we are concerned that if there was collusion on the part of the police or the army in
Rosemary's murder, the Port investigation is unlikely to uncover it. While we cannot point as yet to
solid evidence of security force involvement in the murder, we are not convinced that if such exists, it
will be uncovered and revealed. Obviously the primary purpose of the Port investigation is to catch
those who killed Rosemary and bring them to trial. We obviously want those responsible to be
brought to account. However, an investigation into who was actually physically responsible for the
murder of Pat Finucane would not necessarily result in a full examination of the police and army role
in the murder. In the same way, while Colin Port is devoting resources to discovering whether the
heavy security presence in the area before Rosemary's death was suspicious, this is only one
aspect of possible collusion into the death.
Our family believes that regardless of what is found in relation to the security presence in the area
before the attack, the police were responsible for contributing to the context in which Rosemary
could become a target. A criminal investigation will not examine this type of behaviour. Inaction on
the part of the police when faced with evidence that Rosemary was at risk will not form part of the
criminal investigation. The abuse and intimidation which Rosemary suffered at the hands of the
police will not form part of the criminal investigation. Yet we believe it is self-evident that all of this
must be investigated. We cannot accept that these matters will not be investigated in the event that
Colin Port manages to catch those who actually planted the bomb that killed Rosemary.
That is why our family are supporting the call for the establishment of an independent inquiry into the
murder of Rosemary. We would be most grateful for the support of this Commission in trying to
achieve that objective. I would be grateful if this Commission could undertake to pursue through
whatever mechanisms are available to it the establishment of such an inquiry and to try and
persuade the United Kingdom to establish such an inquiry. Obviously we wish to see those who
were responsible for Rosemary's murder brought to justice and sent to jail. However, we also wish
to see agents of the state, whether they be police officers or others, brought to account for the
threats and intimidation my sister was subject to and for failing to take action to protect her despite
being warned she was under threat. It is only in that context that justice will be done and seen to be