Amnesty International Says Dáil’s Imposition of Time Limits on Ireland Smithwick Tribunal May Interfere with Independence of Judicial Inquiry

Press Release
June 1, 2011

Amnesty International Says Dáil’s Imposition of Time Limits on Ireland Smithwick Tribunal May Interfere with Independence of Judicial Inquiry

Contact: AIUSA media office, 202-509-8188

(Washington, D.C.) Today, Dáil Éireann (the Dáil, the lower house of Ireland’s parliament) passed a motion, following earlier approval by the Cabinet, requiring the Smithwick Tribunal to provide an interim report to the Dáil by June 30, 2011 and to complete its work by November 30, 2011.


The Smithwick Tribunal was established by resolutions of the Dáil and the Seanad Éireann (the Irish Senate) in March 2005, and began its preliminary investigations in 2006. The Tribunal is examining allegations that members of An Garda Síochána (the Irish national police service) or other Irish state agents colluded in the killing of two senior Royal Ulster Constabulary (R.U.C.) police officers by the Provisional Irish Republic Army (P.I.R.A.) on March 20, 1989 in Northern Ireland, near the border with Ireland.


The motion of the Dáil amended the March 2005 resolution which established the Tribunal, and added a requirement which stated that “in any event, the Tribunal shall complete its inquiries and submit its final report to the Clerk of the Dáil not later than November 30, 2011.”


Amnesty International considers that where an inquiry is established into allegations of serious human rights violations, in this case of the possible collusion of state officials in a killing, any such inquiry must be independent, impartial, prompt and thorough. The arbitrary imposition of time limits and reporting requirements by governments, regardless of whether they respond to public policy considerations such as cost or perceived ongoing delay in the investigation, can be construed or perceived as interference in the independence of the inquiry. Changes by governments to a human rights inquiry’s limits on resourcing, reporting or time must be intended to ensure that the inquiry is more effective, and must not be driven solely by extraneous concerns such as cost or delay, at the expense of the rule of law.


Amnesty International notes with regret the motion of Dáil Éireann and the position of the Irish government with regard to the Smithwick Tribunal. Amnesty International is particularly concerned by the apparent change in attitude to the work of the Smithwick Tribunal, given the speed with which the Irish government initially took up the recommendation of the Cory Collusion Inquiry (see background information below) by supporting the establishment of a commission of inquiry into the killings.


Amnesty International Ireland wrote on May 27, 2011 to the Irish Minister for Justice, Equality and Defense seeking further information about the motion, following reports in the press, and calling on the Irish government to ensure that the Smithwick Tribunal continues to have a mandate to carry out a prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigation of all allegations of serious human rights violations. Amnesty International Ireland has not to date received a response.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

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