Irish Republican News · February 14, 2015
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Orchestrated effort to cover up war crimes
Orchestrated effort to cover up war crimes

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The failure to convict a single member of the British Crown forces since 1998 is being linked to the systematic frustration of investigations and inquests by elements within the policing system in the north of Ireland.

Recent research has revealed that just four people have gone to jail for historical attacks since 1998 - two republicans and two loyalists.

The PSNI’s Historical Enquiries Team was set up in 2005 with a budget of thirty million pounds to re-examine more than 3,200 deaths during the conflict. Despite this, investigations by the controversial body - which was closed down at the end of last month - resulted in just three convictions, and none from the Crown forces.

The work of the HET was strongly criticised in 2013 after Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) found that killings involving members of the British army were “reviewed with less rigour” than other cases.

Meanwhile, more than half of the staff employed by the new PSNI unit set up to take over from the HET, the Legacy Investigations Branch (LIB), are former members of Special Branch or C2, the police units most closely linked to Crown force warcrimes.

Groups representing the families of people killed with the involvement of the Crown forces have warned that the new unit will not be independent.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by legal firm KRW Law reveal that of 51 people are employed by the new branch, 29 staff members previously worked for Special Branch or the PSNI’s controversial ‘C2’ Serious Crime Branch.

The unit also employs 22 people who were previously RUC members or RUC support staff.

Lawyer Kevin Winters said there are concerns that the Legacy Investigations Branch is unable to meet it obligations to carry out independent investigations under the European Convention on Human Rights.

“In terms of independence the Legacy Investigations Branch represents a backward step following the collapse of the HET,” he said-

Mike Ritchie from victims’ group, Relatives for Justice, also voiced concern.

“What needs to happen is for all cases and all information to be handed over to the Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) envisaged by the Stormont House Agreement,” he said.

“This needs to be independently run with no local police involvement.”

However, the PSNI chief George Hamilton has said it could take up to two years to set up the HIU.

DELAYS, OBFUSCATION

Ongoing delays over investigations and inquests are the subject of several legal battles by victims of the conflict and their families, now including the McGurk’s Bar attack, in which 15 innocent civilians were killed and 17 injured.

Kevin Winters said he was issuing writs against a number of British government agencies including the PSNI, the Ministry of Defence and the Northern Ireland Office, in regard to the McGurks atrocity.

He said new evidence uncovered by researchers at the National Archives revealed links between the McGurk’s Bar bombing and similar incidents including the The Kelly’s Bar attack on May 13 1972 in which one man was killed and 66 civilians were injured.

“These links include failures to prevent both bombings, failures in the immediate investigations and orchestrated operations to spread disinformation about who was responsible and who the intended victims were.

“These links evidence both collusion between the British government and loyalist paramilitary groups and a deliberate policy to use disinformation to influence public perception and to deny and distort the truth.”

Meanwhile, the family of Sean Brown have called for members of a County Derry policing body to boycott its next meeting. No-one has ever been charged with the GAA official’s 1996 murder, in which collusion is suspected.

The Bellaghy man’s relatives said this week they want members of Magherafelt Policing and Community Safety Partnership to make a protest after his inquest was delayed again.

After a protracted process, a HET report on the killing was finally disclosed by the PSNI to parties involved in the long-delayed inquest. But a preliminary inquest hearing in Belfast was told that further hold-ups in disclosing other files linked to the shooting would mean a scheduled Easter start date for the full inquest could be postponed until after September.

Sinn Fein last night confirmed it will boycott the next meeting, while the SDLP said it hoped to meet with the Brown family in the coming days. It is understood several independent members of the group may also stay away.

The PSNI was also criticised this week for creating delays at the inquest into the murder of County Tyrone pensioner Roseanne Mallon by loyalists, again in apparent collusion with British forces.

And Amnesty International has said the failure of the British government to hold an independent public inquiry into the assassination of Belfast defence lawyer Pat Finucane risked “fatally undermining public confidence” in Britain’s approach to dealing with the past.

The human rights group spoke out as people gathered to mark the anniversary of his death on Thursday night. The event was addressed by respected BBC journalist John Ware and Professor Mark McGovern, who is an expert on collusion.

Mr Finucane was shot dead in front of his wife and children in their north Belfast home by the UDA, 26 years ago this week.

In 2011 the British government ordered a review of the case to be carried out by Sir Desmond de Silva QC who confirmed Crown-force collusion in the lawyer’s murder.

A year later British prime minister David Cameron apologised to the Finucane family.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International Programme Director, said: “It is vital for public confidence in that process for Britain to honour its previous commitment to an independent public inquiry.”

© 2015 Irish Republican News