Amnesty action appeal
Amnesty action appeal

Amnesty International has launched an online appeal asking people worldwide to write to senior UK judges, urging that neither they nor other judges sit on any public inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 into the murder of Belfast lawyer Patrick Finucane.

An inquiry under the 2005 Act, railroaded through Parliament on the last possible day before it was dissolved for the election, would lack independence and be largely controlled by the executive, says Amnesty International.

The final report of any inquiry under the Act would be published at the executive’s discretion and crucial evidence could be omitted at the executive’s discretion, “in the public interest.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“Any judge presiding over an inquiry into the Finucane murder under the Inquiries Act 2005 would be presiding over a sham. We urge judges not to sit on any such inquiry.

“By rushing through this Act, the government has placed itself beyond public scrutiny and dealt a massive blow to any hopes of transparency in government.

“Under the Inquiries Act 2005, there will be no more independent, public inquiries like those into the Ladbroke Grove train crash, the murder of Stephen Lawrence or the tragedy at Hillsborough.

“The government will be able to control what the public finds out, and what it doesn’t.”

Patrick Finucane, an outspoken human rights lawyer, was shot dead in his home in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on 12 February 1989 by Loyalist paramilitaries.

In the aftermath of his killing, prima facie evidence of criminal conduct by police and military intelligence agents acting in collusion with Loyalist paramilitaries in his murder emerged.

In addition, allegations have emerged of a subsequent cover-up by different government agencies and authorities.

In April 2004, an independent report, commissioned by the UK and Irish governments concluded that “only a public inquiry will suffice” in Patrick Finucane’s case.

Geraldine Finucane, Patrick Finucane’s widow, has called on all senior judges in England, Wales and Scotland not to serve on an inquiry into her husband’s case held under the new legislation.

Amnesty International calls on the UK authorities to establish a truly independent judicial inquiry into collusion by state agents with Loyalist paramilitaries in Patrick Finucane’s murder; into reports that his killing was the result of state policy; and into allegations that different government authorities played a part in the subsequent cover-up of collusion in his murder.

The appeal asks supporters to write to Lord Bingham, Senior Law Lord; Lord Woolf, Lord Chief Justice; and Lord Cullen, Lord President of the Supreme Court in Scotland, urging that neither they nor other judges in their jurisdiction sit on an inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005.

Appeals will also be sent to the heads of the judiciary in countries with a common law system who might also be approached to sit on such an inquiry, such as Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the USA, South Africa, Sri Lanka and India.

Under the Inquiries Act 2005:

the inquiry and its terms of reference would be decided by the executive; no independent parliamentary scrutiny of these decisions would be allowed

the chair of the inquiry would be appointed by the executive and the executive would have the discretion to dismiss any member of the inquiry

the decision on whether the inquiry, or any individual hearings, would be held in public or private would be taken by the executive

the decision to issue restrictive notices to block disclosure of evidence would be taken by the executive

Lord Saville of Newdigate, the chair of the Bloody Sunday Tribunal of Inquiry, pointed out that the Inquiries Act 2005 “makes a very serious inroad into the independence of any inquiry; and is likely to damage or destroy public confidence in the inquiry and its findings”.

Lord Saville also said:

“As a Judge, I must tell you that I would not be prepared to be appointed as a member of an inquiry that was subject to a provision of this kind.”


Take action - write an appeal to senior UK judges...

You can copy and paste this sample letter into an e-mail or a document to print out. If you are planning to write your own appeal please read our letter writing guide.

Please send appeals to:

Lord Bingham of Cornhill
The Senior Law Lord
Law Lords Corridor
House of Lords
London SW1A 0PW
United Kingdom

Salutation: Dear Lord Bingham of Cornhill

The Rt. Hon. The Lord Woolf
Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales
Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London WC2A 2LL
United Kingdom

Salutation: Dear Lord Woolf

The Rt. Hon. The Lord Cullen of Whitekirk
Lord President The Supreme Court
11 Parliament Square
Edinburgh EH1 1RQ

Salutation: Dear Lord Cullen of Whitekirk

Dear Lord [add surname],

I am writing to express my concern over the UK government’s stated intention to hold an inquiry into Patrick Finucane’s case under the Inquiries Act 2005.

As you may know, more than 16 years after the killing of Patrick Finucane -- an outspoken human rights lawyer -- by Loyalist paramilitaries with the alleged collusion of police and military agents, the UK government continues to refuse to hold a truly independent public inquiry into these allegations. The Inquiries Act 2005 empowers the UK authorities to block public scrutiny of state actions and undermines the independence of the judiciary. Any inquiry held under such legislation would fall far short of international human rights standards. Amnesty International considers that any judge sitting on such an inquiry would be presiding over a sham.

Geraldine Finucane, Patrick Finucane’s widow, has recently called on all senior judges in England, Wales and Scotland not to serve on an inquiry into her husband’s case held under this new legislation.

In light of the above, I urge you to ensure that all members of the judiciary in your jurisdiction are made aware of these extremely serious concerns.

Amnesty International is urging those members of the judiciary who may be approached by the UK authorities to sit on an inquiry into the Finucane case held under the Inquiries Act 2005 to decline to do so.

I thank you in advance for your urgent attention to the concerns expressed in this letter.

Yours sincerely

Urgent Appeal

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