UN investigator slams RUC and Law Society

Dato Param Cumaraswamy, the UN lawyer investigating intimidation of lawyers in the Six Counties has called for a full independent judicial inquiry into the 1989 murder of Pat Finucane. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers also raised serious concerns about solicitors “loss of confidence in the RUC complaints mechanism and their own association, the Law Society.”

Pat Finucane, the prominent human rights solicitor was murdered only weeks after British minister Douglas Hogg had talked about lawyers in the Six Counties being too close to their `clients’.

Martin Finucane, spokesperson for the Human Rights organisation, The Pat Finucane Centre in a statement said, “it’s well documented that the UDA officer [Brian Nelson] who briefed the killers of Pat Finucane was working for British Intelligence and that the RUC falsely told John Stalker during his inquiry that Pat Finucane was a member of the IRA.”

On his 10 day fact finding tour of the Six Counties and England, the UN lawyer found “compelling reasons for the inquiry” and said the murder “brought home a chilling effect on the independence of lawyers.” In his “preliminary observations” Mr Cumaraswamy went on to say “that suspicion, that doubt [of security force involvement] has not been allayed.”

Mr Cumaraswamy visited Castlereagh and Gough barracks, met with Ronnie Flanagan, Lord Chief Justice Carswell, the Bar Council, Law Society, the CAJ, and police and prision authorities, and about 17 lawyers who worked on “politically sensitive cases.” He praised their courage but complained that due to their loss of faith in the RUC and Law Society complaints mechanisms, there had not been sufficient documentation of their harassment. He also criticised the Law Sociey for not doing enough to protect its members.

Despite the lack documentation, Mr Cumaraswamy said the UN had recieved several reports in the last few years into the harassment and intimidation of lawyers by the RUC. He also said that once the RUC had been informed of the situation via international bodies the RUC “should have realised there was serious concern and done something to stop this serious problem.”

Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin welcomed the inquiry call and said, “collusion exists at every level within the RUC, DPP, and the judiciary. The case of Pat Finucane best exposes this and is further confirmed by these recommendations.” He was also glad that Mr Cumaraswamy had the opportunity to hear first hand, “the type of threats, intimidation and duress” that solicitors had to work under.

The final UN report is due out early in the New Year.