Board Resolution ~ 11/14/1998(2)

On Intimidation and Targeting of Defense COunsel in Northern Ireland

Resolution of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers On the Intimidation and Targeting of Defense Counsel in Northern Ireland and Other Issues of Importance Related to the Criminal Justice System in Northern Ireland

November 14, 1998
Atlanta, Georgia

WHEREAS the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers undertook a fact-finding mission to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; and

WHEREAS the focus of this mission was to inquire into consistent reports of alleged systematic abuse of defense lawyers in Northern Ireland and to investigate possible abuses arising out of measures restricting access of Northern Ireland defense lawyers to those taken into custody in Northen Ireland; and

WHEREAS the United Nations Special Rapporteur, in response to additional expressions of concern, undertook also to examine and evaluate certain aspects of the functioning of the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland; and

WHEREAS the United Nations Special Rapporteur presented his Report on the Mission of the Special Rapporteur to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in April 1998; and

WHEREAS the Special Rapporteur devoted an entire section of the report to the 1989 murder of Patrick Finucane, a leading member of the Northern Ireland defense bar killed by two masked gunmen who entered his home and shot him 14 times in front of his wife and three children; and

WHEREAS the Special Rapporteur noted with regard to Patrick Finucane's killing that:

(1) existing information raises serious questions as to the possibility of official collusion in his murder;

(2) his murder had a chilling effect on the Northern Ireland defense bar; and

(3) the brutal killing of this highly visible and highly successful defense lawyer and continuing doubts about the efficacy of the police force's investigation of his murder undermined public confidence in the fairness and impartiality both of the Northern Ireland police force and of its justice system; and

WHEREAS the report of the Special Rapporteur into the Independence of Judges and Lawyers put forward a number of conclusions and recommendations aimed at alleviating serious and recurrent human rights violations in Northern Ireland and accomplishing procedural reforms geared toward correcting structural infirmities which deprive the accused of the right to a fair trial, including the right to effective representation by counsel; and

WHEREAS the Special Rapporteur's conclusions include among them a determination that members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), the police force in Northern Ireland, have engaged in systematic abuse of defense lawyers in Northern Ireland and that outstanding questions surrounding the murder of Belfast solicitor Patrick Finucane demonstrate the continuing need for an independent judicial inquiry into the circumstances of his killing; and

WHEREAS the American Bar Association, having reviewed and considered the report of the Special Rapporteur, thereafter urged the Government of the United Kingdom to take all steps necessary to insure that lawyers are not intimidated because of the clients or causes they champion and that the rights of the accused are protected; and

WHEREAS the U.S.-based Lawyers Committee for Human Rights had earlier conducted its own inquiry into the intimidation of defense lawyers in Northern Ireland and into the murder of Patrick Finucane; and

WHEREAS the recommendations in its report Human Rights and Legal Defense in Northern Ireland (1993)
were based on information gathered during a Lawyers Committee for Human Rights fact-finding mission which included among its members the Honorable John J. Gibbons, Chief Judge (ret.) of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit; and

WHEREAS the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights also put forward a number of recommendations intended to protect Northern Ireland defense lawyers in performing the vital role they play in protecting the rights of the accused and to redress incursions of those individual rights and liberties which define a democratic society; and

WHEREAS the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights also recommended that there be an independent judicial inquiry into the murder of Patrick Finucane, as well as an independent inquiry into allegations of official threats and abuse of defense counsel, and, in addition, that steps be taken to insure detainees were afforded the right of immediate access to, and confidential consultation with, defense counsel of their choice;

NOW, THEREFORE, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, whose proud mission it is to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime, to foster the integrity, independence, and expertise of the defense bar, and to promote the proper and fair administration of criminal justice, endorses the recommendations and conclusions contained in the Report on the Mission of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, and, in particular;

- endorses the Special Rapporteur's call for an independent judicial inquiry into the outstanding questions surrounding the murder of Patrick Finucane;

- endorses the Special Rapporteur's recommendation that members of the Northern Ireland police force participate in training programs aimed at sensitizing them to the importance of the role of defense lawyers in the justice system;

- endorses the Special Rapporteur's recommendation that the emergency legislation which continues in effect in Northern Ireland be promptly amended to insure that individuals the police take into custody have the right of immediate access to counsel of the detainees' choice and, further, that all detainees have the right to have counsel present during all interrogations;

- endorses the Special Rapporteur's recommendation that the right to trial by jury be reinstated and that the nonjury Diplock courts cease to be employed for the trial of any defendants accused of criminal offenses; and

- endorses the Special Rapporteur's recommendation for the reinstatement of the unabrogated right to silence; and

FURTHER, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, which, as one of its organizational priorities, seeks to contribute to the formulation of a rational and humane criminal justice policy in the United States, urges all parties involved in the review of the Northern Ireland criminal justice system mandated by the Northern Ireland Peace Agreement to make this review a matter of the highest priority and to take all steps necessary to insure that all existing structural and statutory incentives which contribute to the commission of human right abuses and the unfair administration of justice are replaced by measures which insure due respect for the right to due process and a fair trial before an independent judiciary and for the rule of law. 

In This Section

Advertisement Advertise with Us
ad