17 June 1999 Edition
Rosemary Nelson ``day of action''
An International Day of Action was organised on Tuesday 15 June by the Rosemary Nelson Campaign to mark the three-month anniversary of the human rights solicitor's assassination, urging greater public support for the campaign for an independent inquiry into the killing.
In the United States, the Irish American Unity Conference, in conjunction with the Rosemary Nelson Campaign, and U.S. Congressional Representatives Ben Gilman, Chris Smith, Donald Payne, Peter King, Richard Neal, Jim Walsh and Joseph Crowley held a press conference to mark the day of action.
At the conference, Pádraigín Drinan, the solicitor for several of Rosemary's clients, including the Garvaghy Road Residents' Association, read a statement from the Nelson family and provided an update on the investigation into Rosemary Nelson's murder.
Speaking about the event, Judge Andrew Somers, National President of the Irish American Unity Conference, said: ``This is a solemn occasion. We are remembering a champion of human rights in Northern Ireland at a time when the Peace Process is in serious jeopardy.
``The Irish American community joins the Rosemary Nelson campaign, the House of Representatives, the United Nations Special Rapporteur, and human rights organisations around the world in their demand for an independent, RUC-free investigation into Rosemary's death''.
In Dublin, the English human rights lawyer, Gareth Peirce, addressed the Law Society, while in both Dublin and Belfast, lorries drove around the city streets displaying billboards with the inscription, ``Mr. Blair, if you don't defend human rights lawyers, who will defend human rights?''
The campaign, however, did not go without controversy. One advertiser, David Allen, refused to display the billboards in the Six Counties. The billboards which were 20ft by 10ft, were to be situated at two sites in Dublin and another two in Belfast and Derry. David Allen's agency in Belfast refused the custom, saying that the billboards were ``untimely and inflammatory''.
Damien O'Broin of the Public Communications Centre, the group which designed the poster, responded: ``When David Allen first refused we were told the posters were inflammatory. We were later told that the locations and timing were inflammatory. We see it as a positive message which is not in any way inflammatory or out of place in a human rights campaign.''
Similar billboards were erected in the United States and New Zealand.
Last Monday, Dato Param Cumaraswamy, the UN Special Rapporteur who met Rosemary Nelson while gathering evidence on RUC death threats made against the mother of three before she was murdered, held a meeting with Robbie McVeigh of the Rosemary Nelson Campaign. Speaking to An Phoblacht after the meeting, McVeigh said: ``Mr. Cumaraswamy's continued interest in the Nelson killing is to be welcomed and a source of encouragement''.
The campaign has also started an online petition calling for an international inquiry into Rosemary's murder. Those who wish to contribute are asked to send an e-mail to [email protected] including your name and location. Please visit the website at http://www.RosemaryNelsonCampaign.com for further information on how you can help.
Amnesty backs inquiry call
Amnesty International's Annual report , published yesterday, backs an independent inquiry into Rosemary Nelson's death.
The report also cites the new emergency provisions of the Offences against the State Act as a violation of international standards of human rights, and criticises the application of deportation procedures to asylum seekers.
The publication of the report follows a memorial meeting for Rosemary Nelson in Dublin organised by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties on Tuesday, which was attended by Minister for Justice, John O'Donoghue, and the Attorney General, David Byrne.
John McMenamin, chairperson of the Bar Council, said in paying honour to Rosemary Nelson that ``Her practice is a reminder to us lawyers that one of our functions is to give a voice to the voiceless'. He went on to say that she was truest of lawyers because she stood for one of the fundamentals - that everyone is equal before the law.
Michael Farrell, co-chairperson of the ICCL, said that ``if the security forces are not prepared to accept the role allocated to lawyers in our system, we are very little removed from a police state''.
The latest Amnesty Report also criticised the deportation procedures used against asylum seekers, where as this paper has often pointed out, an asylum seeker is unlikely to afford to have a lawyer at all at the quasi judicial hearing of their asylum application or subsequent appeal, never mind about equal treatment before the law.