Britain urged to investigate murder of Irish human rights champion

Rep Chris Smith listens during an October 4 Helsinki Commission hearing on sex trafficking and abuse of children CNA US Catholic News 10 5 12 Rep Chris Smith listens during an October 4 Helsinki Commission hearing.

Witnesses and congressmen at a U.S. hearing renewed a call to the British government to launch a public inquiry into the 1989 murder of Northern Irish human rights leader Patrick Finucane.

"The deliberate decision not to proceed with a public inquiry is a glaring, public breach of faith," said Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.).

"It is the source of enormous frustration to Patrick Finucane's family and friends," he continued. "It resonates throughout Northern Ireland, calling into question the British government's commitment to peace and reconciliation."

The hearing on recent developments in Finucane's death was held May 15 before the Congressional Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Human Rights and International Organizations.

Finucane, a Catholic Northern Irish lawyer, challenged the British government through several high-profile human rights cases in the late 1980s. He was murdered in his home in 1989, and while the British government initially promised a public inquest into the case, it was never carried out.

Following investigations and pressure from outside sources, British Prime Minister David Cameron admitted in 2012 that elements of the state had conspired in the murder plot and issued an apology. However, according to Smith, by failing to fully investigate the murder, the government "continues to protect those responsible for the murder of Pat Finucane."

Michael Finucane, the son of the deceased lawyer, who was present at his father's assassination, testified at the hearing, saying that since his father's death, "suspicions abounded that the State might have had a hand in his murder."

"In the 24 years since the murder, my family and I have campaigned relentlessly for a public judicial inquiry into the circumstances," he said, adding that their efforts were initially met with "denial and refusal," although further investigation showed them to be true.

"On behalf of my family, I ask for the support of this Committee, the support of the House and Congress to persuade the British Government to honour its long standing promise to establish a public judicial inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane," he stated.

Jim Cullen, retired Brigadier General of the U.S. Army Judge Advocates General's Corps also testified at the hearing, suggesting that indications of prior knowledge of the murder among British special forces and intelligence units "make clear the extent of the governmental collusion in Pat Finucane's murder."

"The refusal by the British government to convene a credible independent inquiry into Pat Finucane's murder ensures there will be no accountability for those who orchestrated and sanctioned the murder of Pat Finucane," Cullen added.

Rep. Smith joined the Finucane family in urging members of Congress to sign a letter to "urging him to conduct the promised inquiry."

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