(New York, December 10, 1999)—Today, on International Human Rights Day, Human Rights Watch, along with
other rights organizations, urged the U.K. government to establish an independent and impartial inquiry into all
the circumstances surrounding the murder of human rights defender Rosemary Nelson. A joint statement was
issued by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, British Irish Rights Watch, Committee on the
Administration of Justice, Center for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers of the International Commission
of Jurists, and the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. The full statement is attached.
"A criminal investigation cannot adequately address the failure of government and the police to heed repeated warnings that Rosemary's Nelson's life was under threat."
Julia Hall, Counsel, Europe and Central Asia Division, Human Rights Watch
Rosemary Nelson, killed in a car bomb attack in March 1999, was the second human rights lawyer murdered by
loyalist paramilitaries in Northern Ireland; the first was Patrick Finucane in 1989. The failure to carry out an
independent inquiry into Patrick Finucane's death, and to find anyone responsible for his death, contributed to a
deterioration in the rule of law, whereby police officers routinely made derogatory and threatening remarks about
lawyers with impunity. Rosemary Nelson also alleged police intimidation and her murder further undermined the
rule of law. Her killing was an indictment of the U.K. government's and the Royal Ulster Constabulary's (RUC)
failure to protect her life.
"A criminal investigation cannot adequately address the failure of government and the police to heed repeated
warnings that Rosemary's Nelson's life was under threat," said Julia Hall, counsel in the Europe and Central Asia
Division at Human Rights Watch. "Moreover, the RUC's continuing involvement in the Nelson murder
investigation undermines confidence that her complaints regarding police intimidation will ever be thoroughly
and impartially investigated."
The organizations urged the U.K. authorities to meet their obligations under international standards to carry out
an independent, thorough and impartial inquiry into the Nelson murder including investigations of:
Rosemary Nelson's complaints to the Independent Commission on Police Complaints regarding persistent RUC
harassment and intimidation;
- Alleged RUC harassment and intimidation of other lawyers through their clients in special interrogation
- Death threats Rosemary Nelson received in the context of other death threats targeting nationalists issued by
loyalist paramilitaries at the same time;
- The RUC's failure to carry out an impartial investigation into her allegations of police abuse;
- The RUC's failure to investigate other lawyers' allegations of police intimidation and abuse;
- The RUC's failure to take Rosemary Nelson's fears seriously, to take numerous human rights organizations'
complaints regarding threats to her life seriously and ultimately to protect her life;
- The Northern Ireland Office's failure to ensure protection of Rosemary Nelson's life despite repeated warnings
and pleas by international organizations such as the United Nations and many human rights groups; and
- The Northern Ireland Office's failure to comply with most of the U.N. special rapporteur on the independence of
judges and lawyers 1998 recommendations concerning the intimidation of lawyers.
The joint statement is at http://www.hrw.org/press/1999/dec/nire1210b.htm