By Anne Cadwallader
BELFAST — The British government found itself in the dock twice this week when relatives of 14 people killed either by the RUC or by loyalists with alleged RUC collusion won support in two separate cases.
In the case of two murdered lawyers, Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson, a United Nations investigator at Geneva strongly criticized the British government’s failure to instigate independent inquiries into their deaths.
The annual report of the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, the Malaysian lawyer Dato Param Cumaraswamy, sharply criticizes the British government’s handling of investigations into the Finucane and Nelson murders.
He repeated his call for an independent judicial inquiry into Finucane’s 1989 murder and expressed concern that the involvement of members of the RUC in the investigation into the murder last year of Rosemary Nelson may taint the outcome of that investigation.
Britain’s lack of action is also highlighted in relation to the killing of Rosemary Nelson. She had personally testified about her fears for her lift to Cumaraswamy before she was murdered.
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Linking the Finucane and Nelson killings, Cumaraswamy said he hoped that the Nelson family will not have to wait as long as Pat Finucane’s for truth and justice.
Richard Harvey, a New York human rights lawyer and U.S. spokesperson for the Rosemary Nelson Campaign, welcomed the report and called for the British government to heed the UN appeal.
Meanwhile, the European Court of Human Rights has agreed to examine the cases of 12 nationalists and republicans shot dead in Northern Ireland the RUC and loyalists in disputed circumstances.
The ruling, given on Wednesday, is another blow to the British government, which fought hard to prevent the cases being heard in the European Court. The cases, which involve four separate incidents, have been taken to Strasbourg by relatives of the dead men.
The court heard details of the RUC shooting of unarmed IRA man Gervaise McKerr in 1982, the SAS ambush of eight IRA men and one civilian in Loughgall in 1987, the RUC shooting of unarmed IRA man Pearse Jordan in 1992, and the loyalist shooting of Sinn Fein member Patrick Shanaghan in Castlederg in 1991.