Warning over commitments on inquiries

Human rights groups have demanded in a letter to Tony Blair that he ensures his government sticks to its commitments on inquiries into the collusion of British forces in three controversial murders.

And on Saturday, the family of human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson threatened to withdraw their support for the inquiry into her assassination if the British government ignored their views.

Amnesty International, the Committee for the Administration of Justice and British Irish Rights Watch this weekend expressed concern that the British government’s Northern Ireland Office was planning to pull back on its pledge to keep the families of three alleged collusion victims -- Rosemary Nelson, Robert Hamill, and Billy Wright -- fully briefed on plans for the forthcoming inquiries into their murders.

The letter to Downing Street said: “If the inquiries are to effectively probe and lay to rest the allegations of state collusion in these three killings, it is vital that they command the confidence and secure the participation of the families, not only for the sake of the families themselves but also in the wider public interest.

“To that end, it is crucial that the families are content with the terms of reference, the membership and the proposed conduct of the relevant inquiry.

“The Northern Ireland Office has assured the families that they will have an opportunity to meet the chair of the relevant tribunal and discuss the terms of reference, the membership and the proposed arrangements for the conduct of the proceedings before they are finalised.

“However, we have recently received reports that the Northern Ireland Office intends to renege on the above mentioned commitment it made to the families of Robert Hamill, Billy Wright and Rosemary Nelson.

“We urge you to ensure that this be not the case. It is also essential to ensure public confidence in the ability of the inquiries to uncover the truth and finally allay the significant public concern that allegations of state collusion and impunity in these cases.”

On Monday, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said the British government had “breached very firm commitments” on staging proper inquiries into the three murders, as well as that of Belfast defence lawyer Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson.

“The Cory Report, when the British made a very firm commitment, was then breached. We discovered in the course of that that the NIO hadn’t even contacted the families. That showed an arrogance that they hadn’t even been in touch with the families from Weston Park until four or five months ago.

“The families are after truth and they don’t trust the British government.

“Everyone knows what happened to Pat Finucane. They are certainly trying to avoid something which is a huge issue, the issue of collusion. Particularly at the time when those who instituted the practice of collusion are so valuable to the British government.”

“Where are some of those people now? They are in Iraq, doing exactly the same thing in Iraq I presume as they did here.”

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