14 February 2002 Edition
The Finucanes will have justice
This week marked the 13th anniversary of the assassination of solicitor Pat Finucane. Since his death, he has been well served by his family and friends. Today, the demands for a full independendent public inquiry into the circumstances of his killing are stronger than ever, and a wealth of new evidence has emerged directly implicating the British state in his killing.
On Tuesday, a report was published by US Human Rights Lawyers into the assassination of Pat Finucane. This again shows that
The man who supplied the weapon to kill Pat Finucane, William Stobie was a Special Branch Agent.
The man who admitted that he killed Pat Finucane, Ken Barrett, was a Special Branch agent who has recently fled for his life after fears of Special Branch involvement in the Stobie killing.
The man who ordered the killing, Tommy Lyttle, was a Special Branch Agent
The man who set it all up, Brian Nelson, was a British Army agent.
These are not old issues. The people involved in the Special Branch at that time are still there. They are still at the heart of the police force.
Their influence goes to the very core of the PSNI. Patten required that human rights abusers be dealt with and that effective mechanisms are put in place to prevent or expose such abuses in the future. Without these measures, the new accountable policing service promised under the Good Friday Agreement will never be delivered.
This issue was raised by Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly on Wednesday when he met with Foreign Minister Brian Cowen. "Sinn Féin will not accept half measures and we will continue to engage with the two governments and the US to ensure we get the sort of policing service our community deserves and expects," he said afterwards.
Public Inquiry calls grow
On the 13th anniversary of Pat Finucane's assassination by the UDA, RUC Special Branch and the Force Research Unit of the British Army, an unprecedented number of groups have have released statements calling for a public inquiry. These include:
British Irish Rights Watch
Committee on the Administration of Justice
Human Rights Watch
International Commission of Jurists
International Federation for Human Rights
Irish Council for Civil Liberties
Lawyers Committee for Human Rights
Pat Finucane Centre
Relatives for Justice
Scottish Human Rights Centre
The Law Society (England and Wales)
The Law Society of Northern Ireland
The Human Rights Committee of the Bar Council in the Six Counties
The Six-County Human Rights Commission
BY LAURA FRIEL
Crown collusion with loyalist paramilitaries was systematic, organised and sanctioned from the very top. The British didn't just recruit informers, or run agents within loyalist groups like the UDA; they organised, armed and directed countergangs that operated in parallel with regular Crown forces.
In its determination to maintain partition, the British government developed a mechanism of state sponsored murder. Behind the mask of liberal democracy and the rule of law, the British state murdered citizens within their own jurisdiction. And this wasn't just about 'taking the war to the IRA'. Pat Finucane wasn't murdered in the belief that he was a 'top Provo'.
Pat Finucane was assassinated because he was a diligent and effective defence lawyer at a time when criminalisation became Britain's determining counter insurgency strategy. This isn't the story of the rogue cop, the frustrated soldier, or the unreliable informer; this is the tale of a rogue state and ruthless government.
These are the facts which successive British governments have sought, and continue to seek, to obscure and hide. The recent killing of a potential key witness to any future inquiry, William Stobie, and the threats and harassment of other key witnesses, suggests that British forces may go to any lengths to prevent public exposure.
This week marks the 13th anniversary of Pat Finucane's killing. It also marks the publication of the latest report onto the killing. "Beyond Collusion; the UK Security Forces and the murder of Pat Finucane" is a comprehensive collation of evidence gathered over many years from many different sources by the New York based Lawyers Committee for Human Rights.
The document presents new evidence, dismisses the British government's proposal to appoint an international Judge and reiterates the call for the immediate establishment of an independent international public inquiry into the killing.
Launching the document at a Belfast press conference, Elisa Massimino, Washington Director of the Lawyers' Committee, was joined by members of the Finucane family and representatives from a number of human rights organisations including, the Six-County based Committee for the Administration of Justice, Amnesty International and British Irish Rights Watch.
"The myth that those calling for Pat Finucane's case to be properly investigated are living in the past must be dispelled. This case is not happening in the past it is part of a process to find a peaceful resolution for Northern Ireland in the future," said Massimino. "The appointment of a judge to investigate these cases could delay things for a long time. We believe that plenty of evidence already exists in the Finucane case for an inquiry to go ahead as it is. The Finucane family and human rights groups have been calling for an inquiry for over a decade. We think that the questions raised in our report can only be answered by a public inquiry."
"The evidence that has emerged in the Finucane case has stretched the traditional concept of collusion to its breaking point," reads the document. "The term collusion conjures up images of an isolated officer or group slipping files to members of paramilitary groups" but what was actually at work was much more entrenched."
Describing a "complex web of intelligence units" whose agents operated actively while reporting back to their government handlers, the document says: "In this context, collusion is an institutionalised phenomenon, one that wears away the boundary between paramilitary and government."
New information revealed by the Lawyers' Committee includes evidence from a former member of the covert British Army unit at the centre of the collusion controversy, the Force Research Unit and information from a former RUC member who claims that pursuit of one of Finucane's killers led to threats from the Special Branch.
The document details further evidence to suggest that the Special Branch not only knew of an imminent threat against the lawyer's life but they were probably at the heart of its instigation. The Special Branch didn't just 'turn a blind eye' or fail to respond to the threat, evidence increasingly suggests they actively procured the killing.
And they weren't alone. The British Army's FRU supplied the intelligence through their agent Brian Nelson; they even accompanied Nelson on a mission to identify Finucane's house. It has also been suggested that the FRU ensured the killers had a free run by ordering other members of the Crown forces away from the area during the attack.
"Documents recording the contacts between FRU agents and their handlers have revealed that the purpose of the FRU, at least with respect to loyalist paramilitary groups, was to redirect the killing power of loyalist paramilitaries away from random sectarian killings towards 'legitimate' republican targets.
"With the active assistance and resources of the FRU, Nelson soon brought new professionalism to the UDA's information gathering system. Brian Nelson prepared targeting information on Patrick Finucane with the knowledge of his FRU handlers."
And if anyone thinks this has nothing to do with the British government and military top brass, think again. The work of FRU agents was "routinely passed along to the very highest levels of the British government" and "every week the FRU submits a report of its activities to the Joint Intelligence Committee which reports directly to Ten Downing Street."
First we have collusion, and then we have cover up. The lengths to which the Special Branch, FRU and British government has gone to obscure the truth about the Finucane killing flags up the controversial nature of their own involvement.
The document details the FRU's frantic attempts to safeguard their agent Brian Nelson from scrutiny by the Stevens team. This includes storing illegal documentation at a British Army barracks, breaking into the investigating team's offices and attempting to destroy vital evidence by setting the office on fire.
"FRU documents pertaining to Nelson were withheld from the Stevens investigations and subsequently found to have been altered. On the night before Stevens planned to arrest Nelson, Nelson fled to England and Stevens' offices were destroyed by fire. According to an FRU whistleblower, that fire was set by the British Army."
Then we have the RUC Special Branch threatening other members of the RUC to protect self-confessed loyalist killers, consistently refusing to act on information, doctoring intelligence tapes and destroying or 'losing' vital evidence, including a taped confession and the murder weapon.
The pistol used in the Finucane killing wasn't 'lost' but, despite the ongoing nature of the investigation, handed over to the British Army who conveniently 'upgraded' the weapon, removing any chance of further forensic examination.
William Stobie was an agent for the Special Branch when acting as an UDA quartermaster he supplied the weapons used to kill Pat Finucane. In 1990, during interrogations by the RUC's CID, William Stobie detailed his role in the Finucane killing, insisting that he had kept his handlers fully informed and that Special Branch had known the names of the UDA members involved.
"Despite his admissions, the Director of Public Prosecutions decided on January 1991 not to charge Stobie in connection with Finucane's murder."
According to a former FRU member, known only as Martin Ingram, there were three separate UDA plots to assassinate Pat Finucane.
"Ingram claims that both the FRU and Special Branch knew that the UDA were targeting Patrick Finucane. He says that they also knew, in the run up to the killings, that there had already been two attempts against his life. Despite this, Finucane was not warned of the dangers he faced."
Ingram has also confirmed that Tommy Lyttle, the leader of the UDA in West Belfast was working for Special Branch at the time of the murder. Lyttle was in charge of both Nelson and Stobie. In an interview in 1995, Lyttle confirmed that two RUC officers had originally suggested the idea of killing Finucane. He also claimed that his Special Branch contacts did not discourage the idea that Finucane should be shot.
At the heart of the intrigue, argues the document, was the British government's criminalisation policy. When Patrick Finucane began practicing law, the British government was shifting strategies in its conflict against the IRA.
The government deemphasised its military campaign and opened up a new front that became known as criminalisation. This strategy depended upon a fundamental manipulation of the legal system, including powers of arrest, detention and admissibility of evidence. As a diligent defence lawyer, Pat Finucane had inadvertently struck at the very heart of this strategy. He paid with his life.
TRUTH OR CONTINUING COVER UP? A FULL PUBLIC JUDICIAL INQUIRY NOW
By Peter Madden, Madden & Finucane Solicitors
Co-founder and law partner of the late Pat Finucane
What is emerging and what is now in the public domain is a picture of the British government's involvement in the murder of its own citizens
The Finucane family's long campaign to find the hidden truth behind the UDA murder of Pat Finucane seems set to continue, despite the Weston Park proposal of the appointment of an international judge to "thoroughly investigate" six cases, including Pat's case.
Make no mistake about it. This is not the public judicial inquiry that the family has been campaigning for. It is not the public inquiry that the family are entitled to. This is a private, behind closed doors, judicial investigation similar to the Dublin/Monaghan investigation and probably does not meet the requirements of European Convention on Human Rights. The Human Rights Commissioner, Brice Dickson has recently said so.
The six cases:- the killings of Pat Finucane, Rosemary Nelson, Robert Hamill, Billy Wright, Bob Buchanan and Harry Breen, and Lord Justice Maurice Gibson and his wife Cecily - have been highlighted by the two governments as representing nationalist and unionist concerns about state involvement in murder.
Nationalist and Unionist leaders have also highlighted these cases. They are cases of "urgent public importance". What could be more important than allegations of a state's involvement in the murder of its own citizens?
In British law, if a matter is of "urgent public importance" and has been passed by both houses of parliament then a public inquiry under the Tribunals of Inquiry Act 1921 must be established. Such an inquiry will have all the powers of the High Court to call for relevant material and subpoena relevant witnesses who can be questioned in public.
If the two governments and the local political leaders have highlighted these cases then why not establish public inquiries in these cases immediately? Why go to the time and expense of appointing a judge to hold six private investigations, particularly if it is likely that full public inquiries will be set up afterwards? It doesn't make any sense.
Unless, of course, the real reason for the appointment is delay or, more concerning to the Finucane family, if the real reason is to prevent the establish a full public judicial inquiry by the establishment of something less in the guise of something more.
The Finucane family want the truth. They don't want a report from a judge who examines the facts in secret and then publishes a report which purports to be the truth.
The facts should be examined in public where the family can challenge any purported explanation or denial. They are entitled to have an input into the calling of relevant evidence and the questioning of relevant witnesses.
They will be able to do none of this if the Weston Park proposals are implemented.
It will take a very long time for any judge to "thoroughly investigate" six complex cases.
That is why the Finucane family see this effort as a cynical exercise in delaying or attempting to prevent the inevitable.
They took the same view when John Stevens was appointed, for the third time, to re investigate Pat's murder. The family decided to treat the Stevens police investigation as a delaying tactic and the public can decide if the family took the correct approach.
The third Stevens investigation or Stevens 3, as it is known, resulted in a delay of three years. A trial resulted in which Billy Stobie was acquitted. He was subsequently murdered. The Stevens report, whether published or not will instil no confidence that Pat's case was thoroughly investigated no more than the establishment of a judge to privately investigate the same thing in which the family have no meaningful input.
The Finucane family were not informed that Pat's case was going to be used by the two governments as a "bargaining chip" in the peace process.
Pat Finucane in his short career sought justice for a large number of people. He was too successful
The case has been the subject of a high profile campaign for thirteen years.
What is emerging and what is now in the public domain is a picture of the British government's involvement in the murder of its own citizens. The British military unit which directed Brian Nelson who directed the UDA, was apparently involved in hundreds of murders of nationalists and republicans, including that of Pat Finucane. That is the allegation. That allegation has been published time and time again by many investigative journalists. Pat Finucane was subjected to death threats from RUC officers in Castlereagh Interrogation Centre prior to his murder. These threats were documented prior to his murder. Douglas Hogg, the British Home Office Minister made a statement in the House of Commons that some solicitors were sympathetic to the IRA, three weeks before the murder. Pat was murdered with a British Army browning pistol. Brian Nelson, the British army agent , who directed the murder, was directed by the secret British Army unit, the Force Research Unit (FRU). Billy Stobie, who was an RUC agent provided the weapons for the murder.
In 1999 on the 10th anniversary of Pat's murder, British Irish Rights Watch compiled a report which included copies of British military documentation. The documents contained information which led to the clear conclusion that the military unit ( the FRU ) were involved in conspiracy to murder.
The Report was handed to the British Government with a request to authenticate the documents. So far they have not refuted the allegation that the documents are genuine.
The disturbing thing is that they have not denied that such a conspiracy existed.
The European Court rulings last May ( Jordan, McKerr, Shanaghan, and Kelly v UK ) severely criticised the British Government for their failure to provide a proper investigative process for hundreds of cases involving state or loyalist killings.
The six cases highlighted at Weston Park are not the only cases in which there are serious concerns about state involvement in murder. The four cases taken to Strasbourg were representative of hundreds of cases which, over a thirty year period, were not properly investigated.
Tony Blair said, when he established the Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday, that:
"Bloody Sunday was different because, where the state's own authorities are concerned, we must be as sure as we can of the truth, precisely because we pride ourselves on our democracy and respect for the law, and on the professionalism and dedication of our security forces."
The Finucane family and other human rights organisations such as the Human Rights Commission do not regard the Weston Park proposals as satisfying the requirements of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
They do not see why they have to get over another hurdle.
The campaign will continue. The family will continue to seek support. They have waited long enough for the truth.
Pat Finucane in his short career sought justice for a large number of people. He was too successful.
I have to play my part in seeking justice for him. I owe him that at least.