2 April 1998 Edition
UN urges Finucane inquiry
RUC in the dock over damning report
By Laura Friel
A United Nations report is urging the British government to implement an immediate independent public inquiry into the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane and a second inquiry into allegations of intimidation and harassment of defence lawyers by the RUC.
The report, published in Geneva on Wednesday, was compiled by distinguished Malaysian jurist Dato'Param Cumaraswammy, a UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers with the UN Human Rights Commission.
Cumaraswammy travelled to London and the Six Counties last October where he interviewed solicitors, barristers, judges in Britain and the Six Counties, Director of Public Prosecutions for the north Alastair Fraiser and RUC Chief Ronnie Flanagan.
The UN report charges the RUC with systematic targeting of lawyers representing republican or loyalist defendants for harassment and intimidation. Most lawyers believed making official complaints about harassment was futile, says the report, because any investigation is carried out by the RUC themselves.
The report cites Independent Commission for Police Complaints statistics which show that of 2,540 complaints against the RUC lodged in 1996, only ten resulted in disciplinary charges with just one officer found guilty of an abuse of authority.
The UN report finds the RUC guilty of ``intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference'' against defence lawyers. The RUC is accused of ``identifying solicitors with their clients or their clients' causes.'' The report pays specific attention to the circumstances surrounding the murder of Pat Finucane, reiterating the need to fully investigate allegations of Crown force collusion. The report highlights the comments of British Minister Douglas Hogg, threats by the RUC as well as the role of British agent Brian Nelson. It recommends restoration of the right to jury trials, restoration of the right to silence and the installation of video and audio recording equipment in interrogation centres as ``a matter of urgency''.
Five of the world's leading human rights organisations, Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists, Human Rights Watch, the International Federation of Human Rights and the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, have welcomed the UN's recommendations.
Gerry Adams described the UN report as ``further compelling evidence of the need for a full judicial inquiry into collusion, the Brian Nelson affair and the role of British Military Intelligence.''
RUC chief under fire
By Laura Friel
RUC Chief Ronnie Flanagan has been described as ``furious'' after comments he made during an interview with Rapporteur Dato'Param Cumaraswammy investigating RUC intimidation of defence lawyers, appeared in a draft of a report to be presented to the UN Commission on Human Rights.
A derogatory remark by the RUC Chief amounted to a repetition of the accusation against some defence lawyers first levelled by the British Minister Douglas Hogg, that some lawyers are `working with paramilitaries'.
Two weeks after Hogg's remark, leading human rights lawyer Pat Finucane was shot dead by the UDA. To repeat those sentiments to a UN official investigating the death of Finucane and ongoing RUC harassment of solicitors, provides a graphic illustration of the arrogance of the RUC and in particular RUC Chief Ronnie Flanagan.
Flanagan's remarks ``expose his real feelings and attitudes, places the lives of defence lawyers in danger and lends justification to loyalist death squads who may target them,'' said Sinn Fein Councillor Alex Maskey, ``Ronnie Flanagan's force is an obstacle to the search for a lasting peace settlement,'' he said.
Flanagan's comments are believed to have been deleted from the final draft of the UN report after the Chief Constable denied making the remark and threatened legal action.