8 years and still no truth

I was saddened to learn today that it has been eight years since the death of Rosemary Nelson. A memorial ceremony is to be held to mark the eighth anniversary of her murder at the hands of Unionist death squads.

The event is being organised by friends and family in a Portadown community centre today as work continues preparing for an inquiry into claims of state collusion.

It is because of people like Rosemary Nelson, Pat Finucane and Gareth Peirce that I decided to become a lawyer.

Rosemary Nelson was an internationally known and respected human rights lawyer. She was the first woman in Lurgan to set up her own practise in what is a male dominated sector.

She was obstructed in the execution of her professional duties in contravention of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers which state:

"Governments shall ensure that lawyers

( a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference;

( b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and

( c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics" (Principle 16) and

"lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients' causes as a result of discharging their functions" (Principle 18).

Many of her clients claimed that RUC officers had threatened her through them several times.

In 1998, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Param Curamaswamy, noted these threats in his annual report, and stated in a television interview that he believed her life could be in danger.

He made recommendations to the British government concerning threats from police against lawyers, which were not acted upon.

Later that year, Nelson testified before a committee of the United States Congress investigating human rights in Northern Ireland, confirming that death threats had been made against her and her three children.

Nothing was done about this and indeed there is reason to believe that the RUC were involved in her murder.

In a civilised society and in any democracy lawyers are not targets for Government agencies, that has not been the case in the six counties.

It is essential, for her family and for the future protection of Human Rights in Ireland, that the truth surrounding the circumstances of her murder be told.

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