Information Service, 14 June 2000:
AMNESTY REPEATS CALL FOR INDEPENDENT NELSON INQUIRY
2000-06-14 11:49:00 EST
Amnesty International today urged the British and Irish
authorities to establish an independent inquiry into all the
circumstances of the murder last march of Northern
Ireland attorney Rosemary Nelson. Amnesty said it was
concerned the police team set up to investigate was not
'sufficiently independent' of the RUC. Ms Nelson was killed
by a booby-trap car bomb in Lurgan in Co Armagh last March.
Loyalist paramilitaries have admitted responsibility.
There has been widespread criticism of Northern Ireland's
Director of Public Prosecutions following its decision
earlier this year not to prosecute Royal Ulster Constabulary
officers who had reportedly threatened Ms. Nelson with her
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Lawyers
Committee for Human Rights, the Committee on the
Administration of Justice, British/Irish Rights Watch, the
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the
Irish Council on Civil Liberties, have all called for an
outside police force to conduct the murder investigation.
Last year, Nelson testified before the United States
Congress's Subcommittee on International Operations and
Human Rights that the RUC had frequently issued threats
against her via her clients while they were in custody.
Following the RUC's decision last year to rule out an
independent inquiry, Congressman Chris Smith, Chairman of
the Subcommittee on International Operations and Human
Rights said: "It's outrageous and undermines the rule of
law." "Just when we think improvements are underway and just
when the people of Northern Ireland begin to hope that
policing may see some real reform, they have the legs cut
out from under them with a decision that makes a mockery of
the need for fairness, transparency, and accountability in
the justice system," Smith told the IAIS.
"This decision seemingly confirms our worst suspicions of a
cover up." Smith said. "When Rosemary Nelson bravely told my
committee that she had been physically assaulted by a number
of RUC officers and that the harassment included death
threats, it was hoped that the British government would take
decisive action to protect her and the other defense
attorneys harassed by the RUC, but they failed to act and
she paid the price with her life."
In April of 1999, the House of Representatives passed
Smith's legislation, H.Res. 128, condemning Rosemary
Nelson's murder and calling on the Government of the United
Kingdom to launch an inquiry totally independent of the RUC
to gather evidence, conduct the ground investigation, and
issue a detailed, public, report on the murder of Ms.
"The call for an RUC-free investigation of the harassment
and murder of Rosemary Nelson -- and other defense attorneys
-- is more urgent than ever before," Smith said. "The Good
Friday Agreement will be undermined if people in Northern
Ireland continue to see that the RUC can and will act with
impunity. I implore Prime Minister Blair to end this mockery
and ensure that justice prevails for those harassed and
abused by thugs hiding in the RUC."
Today's Amnesty report urged the British and Irish
governments to establish an independent inquiry into all
aspects of her death.
The human rights group also said police investigations into
Ms Nelson's complaints of harassment and intimidation by the
RUC had not been thorough or impartial.
On inquiries into alleged collusion between loyalist
paramilitaries and British crown forces, Amnesty called for
public inquiries into the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings
which killed 33 people and injured hundreds.
It also called for inquiries into police investigations of
bombings and the pub-bombing in Dundalk in 1975 as well as
the murder of Mr Seamus Ludlow in 1976 and the alleged
cover-up by both British and Irish authorities.
On the North, Amnesty welcomed the establishment of the
Executive and Assembly but said the situation still gave
cause for concern. It says some areas appear to have become
more polarised, particularly during the Orange Order's
The report said during 1999 there were seven killings, 73
"punishment" shootings (26 by republicans and 47 by
loyalists), and 133 "punishment" beatings (42 by republicans
and 91 by loyalists).
Amnesty said it was concerned the police team appointed to
investigate the Nelson murder was not sufficiently
independent of the RUC. It also said police investigations
into complaints made by Ms Nelson of intimidation and
harassment by the RUC had not been thorough and impartial.
Amnesty also repeated its call for the British government to
institute an independent judicial inquiry into the killing
of lawyer Pat Finucane.
In other news, members of the Protestant Orange Order's
ruling body have voted overwhelmingly to defeat a motion
calling on it to lift its ban on talking directly to the
Northern Ireland Parades Commission.
The Order has so far refused to enter into direct dialogue
with the commission over the issue of contentious marches in
the North. The decision to continue the ban was announced
following a meeting of the Order's grand lodge in Limavady,
The Parades Commission was established in 1997 to determine
whether conditions, or restrictions, should be placed on
parades which pass through nationalist neighborhoods.
The only contact the Order has had with the commission on
previous occasions, has been through political and legal
The Orange Order also has a policy that it will not discuss
disputed parades directly with local residents' groups.
However, representatives of Portadown Orangemen and the
nationalist Garvaghy Road Residents' Group in the town have
been meeting South African human rights lawyer Brian Currin,
who is trying to mediate in the Drumcree dispute in
The latest news comes after it was revealed that Orangemen
have applied for seven additional parades at Drumcree, the
scene of Northern Ireland's most controversial marching
But they have denied it is an attempt to heighten tension at
the location, which has been the scene of a dispute for the
last five years.
At the weekend, Orange Order district master Harold Gracey
repeated his opposition to direct talks with the Garvaghy
Road residents over the marches, and said he was in no
position to do deals with anyone.
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Democrat, 24 June 2000: Amnesty supports
family's fight for public inquiry
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