Council of Europe committee presses UK Government over Finucane probe

The UK Government has been asked to explain how it intends to comply with a Supreme Court ruling for a human rights compliant probe into the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has also asked the Government how it intends to tackle the long list of outstanding investigations into incidents in Northern Ireland’s troubled past.

It has demanded “concrete information” by October 22.

The Northern Ireland based Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) said if the deadline is not met, the Committee of Ministers is “likely to issue an interim resolution against the UK”.

The Committee of Ministers issued an eight-point document on Friday, which included a call that it is “urgent that the authorities take such a decision without further delay” over the Finucane probe.

A general measure further expressed concern at the “lack of detail” in the Government’s approach to mechanisms to deal with the past.

Mr Finucane was shot by loyalist paramilitaries in front of his family in Belfast in 1989 amid claims of collusion with state security forces.

In February last year, the Supreme Court ruled that investigations into the fatal shooting of the Belfast solicitor have not been effective and fell short of international human rights standards.

Mr Finucane’s widow Geraldine welcomed the statement by the Committee of Ministers.

“I am very pleased that the Committee of Ministers has made a firm request of the UK Government for concrete proposals in the case of my late husband,” she said.

Supreme Court Finucane ruling
Geraldine Finucane, the widow of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

“It is disappointing that the UK Government must be compelled in this way, given the ruling of the UK Supreme Court in February 2019 that past investigations into the murder were legally deficit.

“A full and properly compliant investigation into the murder of Pat Finucane has still not been carried out.

“The UK Government has simply adopted a continuing policy of delay and obfuscation.

“It would appear that the Committee of Ministers has now run out of patience and, like me, is demanding clear answers.”

The solicitor for the Finucane family, Peter Madden, said it was a “highly unusual step” from the Committee of Ministers to “directly rebuke” a government.

“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,” he said.

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

A UK Government spokesperson responded in a statement saying: “As the Government set out to the CoM, it is committed to taking forward these important issues as soon as possible.

“We are clear that we want to see a greater emphasis placed on gathering information for families; moving at a faster pace to retrieve knowledge before it is lost; and doing more to help individuals and society to share and understand the tragic experiences of the past.

“Our priority is to develop a way forward which is fair, balanced and proportionate and which delivers for all those who have been affected by the events of the past.”

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