Saturday, 15 November 2014

Monsignor Raymond Murray, Derry, 14 November 2014.

The Craigavon Two.

Yesterday evening I attended a public discussion on the plight of the Craigavon Two which was organised by their campaign group and held in the city's Tower Hotel. I had planned to write a piece on last nights event however Monsignor Murray kindly sent me his contribution. This is a great statement from a world renowned Human Rights stalwart.

Monsignor Raymond Murray
In October 1978 I delivered speeches to a hundred Congressmen in Washington DC and to the Ad Hoc Committee for Human Rights in Northern Ireland, Philadelphia. Among the demands I listed were an end to 7 Day Detention; an end to torture and ill treatment of arrested persons; an end to imprisonment without trial; an end to long remands without trial; an end to Special Diplock Courts; the release of 18 Irish prisoners in Britain who were innocent. We are still campaigning some forty years later against legal injustice. There is no adequate procedure for undoing miscarriages of justice.

Our sympathy is with the family of Constable Stephen Carroll, 48 year old Catholic member of the PSNI, murdered in the Lismore Manor area of Craigavon, Co. Armagh, in March 2009. We feel for his wife Kate Carroll, his son Shane, and all members of the family who have suffered grievously. The campaign for the Craigavon Two, Brendan McConville and John Paul Wooton sentenced for the murder, views their conviction as a miscarriage of justice. We also feel for them and their families. The campaign points out the flaws in witness and forensic evidence and one of our legal expert speakers on the panel this evening, Sarah Wilson (and assisted by Angela Nelson in this case) has outlined the case of their innocence. Leaflets are also available to you summarizing the flaws. 

The campaign for the Craigavon Two is mounting at home and abroad and in particular in the USA due to the great work of Helen McClafferty. It follows fast on the recent campaigns for the release of Marian Price, Martin Corey and Gerry McGeough. John Finucane, solicitor for John Paul Wooton, at a campaign meeting in Belfast, in August this year, said 'A campaign will strengthen any legal avenue and I have seen that personally in my father's case' (i.e. Pat Finucane). We are now seeing also an extraordinary development of international concern in the case of the Craigavon Two (and Julian Icom, Canada, present here this evening, will spread the campaign in Canada, Cuba, and Venezuela). After attending the appeal in their case we were surprised by the long delay in the verdict and shocked at the judgement. We were so confident that they would be released. Now the case goes to the Supreme Court. Your support is urgently needed. Write please to the Secretary of State, Teresa Villiers, to the Minister for Justice David Ford, and to the Taoiseach Enda Kenny. There has been little interest in trials in the North by the Irish Government when doubt is cast on a conviction in a Special Diplock Court. Yes, some TDS in recent years have entered campaigns for justice and are involved in the Craigavon Two campaign. We are grateful to them. Bring your view also before local politicians North and South and to human rights organisations.

A year ago I spoke at a Conference in London organised by personnel from Wiltshire University. After my speech a man approached me flanked by two women. It was Billy Power and his two daughters coming to greet me. The last time I saw him was in Brixton Prison. Billy as you know, innocent man, one of the Birmingham Six, spent 16 years in prison. Fr Denis Faul and I wrote a pamphlet The Birmingham Framework within a year after the conviction of the Birmingham Six and also a broadsheet on the forensic aspects of the case - there was ample evidence in those two publications to prove that they were innocent. Corruption of law meant that they and other innocents at that time were condemned to suffer in jail. Why do we still have to fight cases of legal injustice? I recall after giving a copy of our pamphlet The Birmingham Framework to a journalist asking him some weeks later what he thought, 'Guilty as hell' he said. Yes it took 16 years to build up the truth against hostile government and weak media, to establish counter-action to sentences which found the men guilty. We don't want such a delay in this case. Gerry Conlan lately deceased, R.I.P., one of the Guilford Four, joined in this campaign for the release of Brendan McConville and John Paul Wooton and called loudly for their release. He poured scorn on the evidence against them. He knew what it was like to suffer as an innocent in prison. He did not want them to suffer a similar fate as himself.
Corruption of law!
 We had internment in the North in every decade of the Stormont monolithic unionist government. In the 1970s it was introduced with ill-treatment and torture- besides the hooded men in Ballykelly some 400 men within a few months were severely tortured and ill-treated in the Palace Barracks Holywood and Girdwood Park Barracks, Belfast . Even after internment was formally ended in 1975 – a substitute was found – doubling sentences and imposing charges so that innocent people were held in jail for a year and a half before they were found innocent at their trial. The English government was found guilty of torture by the European Commission on Human Rights and guilty of inhuman and degrading treatment by the European Court of Human Rights – their injustice is recorded in legal text books - and the Hooded Men are now bringing their case back to the European Court of Human Rights to have it declared that they had been tortured. Ian Cobain's book Cruel Britannia - A Secret History of Torture (2012) showed how the use of torture had long been a tradition and policy of the British Government. There is still no sense of guilt and reform in British governments regarding the tragedies of the conflict here: are the Ombudsman and The Historic Enquiry Team's work now to be wiped out with a denial of funding and a firm attitude threatening the closure of documentation regarding state violence and crime ? Speaking at the University of Ulster in early November this year European human rights commissioner Nils Muiznieks insisted that the British Government must uphold the rule of law and claimed that it had breached the European Convention of Human Rights by not conducting independent and prompt investigations into conflict killings. The British Government for forty years has avoided its responsibilities in relation to killings carried out by the security forces. Mr Muiznieks said that budget cuts 'should not be used as an excuse to hamper the work of those working for justice'. The British government in these cases and in the cases of convicted innocent people continues to fail victims.

We never have had adequate procedure for undoing miscarriages of justice. We still have Special Courts. During the 30 years conflict Diplock Courts were not acceptable by people seeking truth and justice, and present traces of its workings in the Justice and Security (NI) Act 2007 in non-jury courts with their aura of injustice, are not acceptable. The rule of law in N. Ireland was corrupted by the use of illegal methods of interrogation and by the official efforts to cover up the use of these methods. The end can never justify the means. Justice not expediency is always the principle. Justice, freedom and truth are helped by jury courts. Confidence in the protection of the law is vital to a free society. To retain non-jury courts for certain individuals leads to selectivity and the danger of prejudice. If this is seen in prosecution and preferring of charges then confidence in the courts is undermined. It casts doubts on the objectivity of law officers of the Crown and the police. Law officers depend on security forces (‘intelligence’) for information about crimes committed by private individuals thought to be members or former members of prescribed organizations, and are therefore limited by the quality of their sources of information. Selectivity at stages of the application of the law disturbs peace and justice. During the conflict Catholics/nationalists felt they were denied civil rights and legal justice. This led to alienation. Any measure that indicates retention of selectivity casts doubts on the practice of justice. Will the Stormont government face the problem, has it an interest in it? 
And what of ourselves? How can we fail to be anxious and concerned when we hear of injustice inflicted on individuals? The state is supposed to be the servant of its citizens not the master. It always comes down to the individual with a name, a human being. Names, yes, Brendan McConville and John Paul Wooton and their tormented families. They deserve our special attention. We must not seek excuses for ourselves in the matter of injustice by just proclaiming the abstract. We thank you for attending this meeting. It is an indication that you want to be guided by justice and as you have heard this evening where there is injustice there is suffering. I finish with words of Brendan McConville and John Paul Wooton themselves:
'While we must acknowledge that this partial court system is the only mechanism available to us to obtain our eventual release, we also acknowledge that the only real momentum for the realisation of that eventuality will come from you, the public, and not from a system where the presumption of innocence has been replaced by a single judge who along with his traditional role also fulfils the role of the entire jury single-handedly. We place our faith in the jury that really matters and that is the jury of public opinion. We ask that you demand justice for the Craigavon Two and justice for all'.
Raymond Murray, Derry Meeting, 14 December 2014.

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