O'Donnell tells UN Commission that enquiry into death of Rosemary Nelson must be fully independent
The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs with special responsibility for Human Rights, Ms. Liz O'Donnell TD, has told the United Nations Commission for Human Rights it is absolutely essential that the enquiry announced by the British Government into Rosemary Nelson's murder be fully independent.
Addressing the UN Commission in Geneva this morning, the Minister welcomed the assurances on this matter which had been sought and given at a meeting last night between the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, and British Prime Minister, Tony Blair.
"Rosemary Nelson was no stranger to the mechanisms of the UN Commission on Human Rights. She believed in them deeply and sought to use them to alleviate injustice against those she represented. Unfortunately, she paid the ultimate price for her advocacy".
The Minister commended the work of the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Param Cumaraswamy. "In his report before this session he has again drawn attention to the question of the intimidation and harassment of defence lawyers in Northern Ireland. The murder of Rosemary Nelson testifies in a graphic way to the immediate relevance of Mr. Cumaraswamy's mandate".
The Minister said that the Rapporteur had also dealt comprehensively with the murder ten years ago of human rights lawyer, Pat Finucane. "I met with his family in Dublin on the tenth anniversary of his murder last month. I also received and have read the British Irish Rights Watch report which contains fresh evidence and allegations of collusion by the security forces in his murder. This report raises issues of the most fundamental concern to this Commission and to all who uphold human rights and the rule of law. The Irish Government will be urging the relevant authorities to respond fully to the report in the context of the now widespread calls for an independent inquiry into Mr. Finucane's murder".
Minister O'Donnell said that the new agreed Northern Ireland emerging from thirty years of communal conflict will be complemented and underpinned by the systematic protection of civil and political rights. The Minister outlined the new landscape being established under the Good Friday Agreement and said that "a new human rights culture embodying the spirit of the Agreement, with its credo of fairness and inclusivity, will permeate the new institutions".
Minister O'Donnell also addressed the global issues of racism and childrens' rights. She said that the Irish experience of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has been positive and added that the "Bill of Rights" has provided coherent standards and principles to inform child-care policy.