Committee of Ministers express ‘deep concern’ at British Government delays over demand for Pat Finucane Inquiry

The Committee of Ministers which supervises how member states comply with judgments of the European Court of Human Rights has expressed their “deep concern” that the UK Government has yet to react to a judgment of the Supreme Court of the UK in London delivered on 27 February 2019 which found that there has not been any investigation into the murder of Patrick Finucane which satisfies Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Please find attached a copy of the decisions published on the ECHR following a meeting of ministers from member states which took place between 1 and 3 September 2020.

Solicitor for the Finucane family, Peter Madden, said:

“It is a highly unusual step for the Committee of Ministers to directly rebuke the British government for failing to take action in light of the Supreme Court judgment eighteen months ago.

“Successive secretaries of state have prevaricated and delayed their decision on whether to hold a public inquiry into Pat’s murder, which is the only manner in which the government can lawfully discharge its obligations under the Convention.

“Geraldine Finucane is now challenging that delay at a hearing in the High Court on 9 October.”

Committee of Ministers Decision 1-3 September 2020

1377bis meeting, 1-3 September 2020 (DH)

H46-44 McKerr group v. the United Kingdom (Application No. 28883/95)
Supervision of the execution of the European Court’s judgments

Reference document
CM/Notes/1377bis/H46-44

Decisions

The Deputies

1. recalled the decisions adopted at their last examinations of these cases at the 1355th and 1369th meetings (September 2019 and March 2020) (DH);

As regards individual measures

2. further recalled that in those decisions it was agreed that the Committee would examine the applicant’s request to reopen its supervision of the individual measures in the Finucane case at the present meeting, in light of concrete information to be submitted by the authorities on how they intended to conduct an Article 2-compliant investigation into Mr Finucane’s death following the findings of the Supreme Court judgment of 27 February 2019;

3. noted the information submitted by the authorities shortly before the meeting providing details about the review underway in that regard, expressed their deep concern that a decision has still not been made on how to react to the Supreme Court judgment and underlined that it is urgent that the authorities take such a decision without further delay;

As regards general measures

4. noted that the information submitted by the authorities indicates that work is continuing to deliver their previous commitment to publish and introduce legislation in the United Kingdom Parliament to implement the Stormont House Agreement to address legacy issues, as set out at the time of New Decade, New Approach; expressed their concern about the lack of detail on the approach set out by the United Kingdom Government in the Written Ministerial Statement of 18 March 2020, and how the current proposals would work in practice and in compliance with the obligation under Article 2 of the Convention;

5. recalled that it is of course primarily for the State concerned to choose, subject to supervision by the Committee of Ministers, the means to be used to discharge its obligations under Article 46 of the Convention; underlined however that the measures must be timely, adequate and sufficient and expressed concern that initiating new plans at this stage would appear to risk further delay when the need to avoid any setbacks is paramount;

6. strongly urged the authorities to provide full details to enable a comprehensive assessment to be made in time for the Committee’s next examination, including the proposed legislative timetable, bearing in mind the length of time these judgments have been pending, with the families waiting for answers; strongly urged them to act, within the shortest possible timeframe, on their obligation to put an end to the type of violation identified by the Court in the present cases and to secure compliance with the requirements of Article 2 of the Convention;

7. in the meantime, underlined the vital role played by the inquest system and the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland (OPONI) in investigating cases; noted the detailed plan for conclusion of all the legacy inquests within five years, which has been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic; noted also with interest the publication of a revised memorandum of understanding regarding the disclosure of information by the Police Service of Northern Ireland to the OPONI; strongly encouraged the authorities to continue to take all necessary measures, including the provision of resources, to ensure that these mechanisms have the capacity to continue their important role effectively and in a timely manner;

8. decided to resume examination of these cases at 1390th meeting (December 2020) (DH) and, in the absence of the submission of concrete information on all of the above issues by 22 October 2020, instructed the Secretariat to prepare a draft interim resolution for consideration at that meeting.