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2 March 2006 Edition

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Inquiries Act: Canadian judge accuses British of moving goalposts

BY LAURA FRIEL

Judge Peter Cory

Judge Peter Cory

Cory accuses British of 'looking glass' justice

Judge Peter Cory has accused the British government of 'moving the goal posts' by introducing the Inquiry Act to curtail a fully independent inquiry into British collusion with unionist death squads.

In April 2004 the retired Canadian judge recommended inquiries into allegations of British state collusion in the murders of Pat Finucane, Billy Wright, Rosemary Nelson and Robert Hamill.

The British government has signalled it will use the new Act to restrict what evidence can be heard. Cory said at the time he was tasked to investigate allegations of collusion, that the British government had led him to believe they would abide by his recommendations.

The new legislation allows British ministers to decide what evidence can be introduced. In other words the very people accused of collusion, the British state, would have the power to suppress evidence. Cory described this as 'Mickey Mouse' justice and 'Alice in Wonderland' law.

Meanwhile Amnesty International has backed the Judge's concerns about the Inquiries Act. In an international report entitled Human Rights: A Broken Promise Amnesty scrutinises recent British government 'security' legislation including the Inquiries Act.

Amnesty expresses 'profound concern' about the Inquiries Act, which it says, "fundamentally compromises the role of judges in upholding the rule of law and human rights for all".

Amnesty says the Act, "undermines the proper separation of powers between the judiciary and the executive", within the British state, and, "enables the executive to control inquiries initiated under it, effectively blocking public scrutiny of state actions."

The report questions the power granted to British ministers to decide upon the inquiry and its terms of reference, to appoint each member of an inquiry panel, to impose restrictions on public access and to decide whether the final report will be published.

"In the light of the above, Amnesty International considers that the Inquiries Act 2005 fails to comply with relevant international standards," the report concludes.

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