ONE EVENT that deserved more attention than it received in Britain at the time was the passing, by the US House of Representatives, in May 2006, of House Resolution 740. The resolution, which condemned the UK Enquiries Act of 2005, represents a rare example of the US Congress formally criticising a British act of parliament.
Although Resolution 740 was carried over a year ago, we reproduce it here in full, along with a response from the family of the murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, for reference purposes.
Title: Calling on the Government of the United Kingdom to immediately establish a full, independent, public judicial inquiry into the murder of Northern Ireland defense attorney Pat Finucane, as recommended by international Judge Peter Cory as part of the Weston Park agreement and a way forward for the Northern Ireland Peace Process.
Whereas human rights defense attorney and solicitor Pat Finucane was brutally murdered in front of his wife and children at his home in Belfast on February 12th 1989;
Whereas many international bodies and nongovernmental human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, British Irish Rights Watch, the Committee for the Administration of Justice, and Human Rights First, have called attention to serious allegations of collusion between loyalist paramilitaries and British security forces in the murder of Mr Finucane;
Whereas in July 2001 the Governments of Ireland and the United Kingdom under terms of the Weston Park Agreement appointed retired Canadian Judge Peter Cory to investigate the allegations of collusion between loyalist paramilitaries and British security forces in the murder of Mr Finucane and other individuals;
Whereas Judge Cory reported to the Governments of Ireland and the United Kingdom in April 2004 that sufficient evidence of collusion existed to warrant a public independent, judicial inquiry into the murder of Mr Finucane and recommended that a public inquiry take place without delay;
Whereas the Government of the United Kingdom in April 2005 adopted the Inquiries Act 2005 which empowers the Government to block scrutiny of state actions and limits independent action by the judiciary in inquiries held under its terms, and, after the enactment of this legislation establishing new limited inquiry procedures, the Government announced that an inquiry into the murder of Mr Finucane would be established which would operate under terms of the new legislation;
Whereas Judge Cory, in a written statement presented to the Committee on International Relations of the House of Representatives in 2005, stated that his 2004 recommendation for a pubic inquiry into the murder of Mr Finucane had "contemplated a true public inquiry constituted and acting pursuant to the provisions of the 1921 Act" (the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921), and also stated that "it seems to me that the proposed new Act would make a meaningful inquiry impossible";
Whereas the family of Mr Finucane has rejected the limited authority of an inquiry conducted under terms of the Inquiries Act of 2005;
Whereas Amnesty International, British Irish Rights Watch, the Committee for the Administration of Justice, and Human Rights First have likewise rejected any proposed inquiry into the murder of Mr Finucane established under procedures of the Inquiries Act of 2005 and have called for the repeal of the Act;
Whereas the Dail Eireann (Parliament of Ireland) adopted a resolution on March 8, 2006, calling for the establishment of a full public independent judicial inquiry into the murder of Patrick Finucane; and
Whereas the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 2003 (Public Law 107-228) and House Resolution 128 (April 20, 1999) support the establishment of a public independent judicial inquiry into the murder of Patrick Finucane; Now, therefore, be it
Resolved: That the House of Representatives -
- expresses to the family of Patrick Finucane deepest condolences on his death, commends their steadfast pursuit of justice in his brutal murder, and thanks his wife Geraldine and son Michael for their willingness to testify on this matter before committees of the House of Representatives on numerous occasions;
- supports the efforts of the Administration in seeking the full implementation of the Weston Park Agreement and the establishment of an independent judicial inquiry into the murder of Patrick Finucane;
- calls on the Government of the United Kingdom to reconsider its position on the matter of an inquiry into the murder of Mr Finucane, to amend the Inquiries Act of 2005, and to take fully into account the objections of Judge Cory, objections raised by officials of the United States Government, other governments, and international bodies, and the objections raised by Mr Finucane's family; and
- urges the Government of the United Kingdom immediately to establish a full, independent, and public judicial inquiry into murder of Patrick Finucane which would enjoy the full cooperation and support of his family, the people of Northern Ireland, and the international community as recommended by Judge Cory.
The above resolution was agreed (by 390 to 5) on 18th May 2006. The 390 in favour consisted of 200 Republicans, 189 Democrats and 1 Independent.
Speaking on behalf of the Finucane family the following day, Michael Finucane said:
"The significance of the Resolution passed by Congress of the United States should not be underestimated. In passing this motion, the democratically elected chamber of the most powerful nation in the world has affirmed the pressing need for a credibly independent inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane and rejected the British assertion that the Inquiries Act is capable of providing such an inquiry. Britain cannot maintain its fiction any longer. The Inquiries Act is a device to permit Ministerial control of a devastating issue: British collusion with paramilitary assassins. The time has come to review its position and establish the inquiry agreed with the Irish Government at Weston Park in 2001."
"This Resolution from the House of Representatives follows hard on the heels of the motion passed by Dáil Eireann in February this year. It echoes the criticism levelled at the Inquiries Act by the Irish Government, Lord Saville, Lord Woolf, Amnesty International, Human Rights First, British Irish Rights Watch, CAJ and even Judge Peter Cory himself. Now the legislature of the United States can be added to the ever increasing list of those who reject the British fiction, that an inquiry can be controlled by the state and yet somehow remain independent. The two notions are simply not compatible.
"The case of Pat Finucane was a case where justice needs to be done and seen to be done. If this is to happen, a Cory-compliant inquiry must be established without further delay. If Tony Blair cares at all about the search for lasting peace in Ireland or even the reputation of his government in the eyes of the world, he must act now to establish a proper public inquiry that is clearly independent and not subject to Ministerial control."
For more information see visit www.patfinucanecentre.org
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