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Amnesty International Report 1994 - United Kingdom

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 1 January 1994
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1994 - United Kingdom, 1 January 1994, available at: [accessed 24 January 2019]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Possibly unfair trials took place in Northern Ireland on the basis of uncorroborated confessions. Several people who were detained for deportation were ill-treated; one woman died as a consequence. Soldiers involved in disputed killings in Northern Ireland were brought to trial. Armed groups deliberately and arbitrarily killed civilians.

The level of violence increased in Northern Ireland as Republican and Loyalist armed groups carried out torture and killings: 83 people were killed in Northern Ireland by armed groups. The predominantly Catholic Republican armed groups, notably the Irish Republican Army (IRA), seek a unification of Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland. This aim is opposed by Loyalist armed groups from the Protestant community, notably the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) which also acts under the name of the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).

The Royal Commission on Criminal Justice in England and Wales issued its report in July (see Amnesty International Report 1992). Its recommendations included setting up a new investigative body on miscarriages of justice, retaining the right to silence but with advance disclosure of the defence case, and tightening up rules on the admissibility of uncorroborated confessions as evidence.

The government introduced legislation for England and Wales allowing courts to draw adverse inferences against defendants remaining silent during interrogation and trial. Similar legislation was introduced in Northern Ireland in 1988 (see Amnesty International Report 1992).

In May the European Court of Human Rights upheld the United Kingdom's (UK) derogation from the provisions of the European Convention which require that detainees are brought promptly before a judicial authority. In the case of Brannigan and McBride v. UK, the majority of the Court concluded that the UK could derogate from these provisions by authorizing the detention of people suspected of terrorist offences for up to seven days without being brought before a judge.

Three former police officers charged with conspiring to pervert the course of justice in the "Guildford Four" case (see previous Amnesty International Reports) were acquitted in May after a jury trial. The trial of three former police officers charged with the same offence in relation to the "Birmingham Six" case (see pre-vious Amnesty International Reports) was stopped in October when the judge decided that a fair trial would not be possible given prejudicial publicity.

In July four police officers were charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice in connection with the conviction in 1986 of four Ulster Defence Regiment soldiers for the murder of a Catholic civilian (see Amnesty International Report 1993). The police officers had not been tried by the end of the year.

In July the Home Secretary ordered the expulsion to Northern Ireland of John Matthews immediately after he had been released from detention when charges of involvement in a bombing in London were dropped. The Home Secretary said the grounds for expulsion were that John Matthews was "concerned with terrorism". The process whereby citizens can be excluded from Great Britain is secret.

Trials took place in Northern Ireland of young people charged with murder on the basis of uncorroborated confessions. In July the trial concluded of five people charged with murder in connection with the 1991 IRA killing of a police officer in Beechmount, Belfast. All five accused alleged that they had signed confessions after being subjected to ill-treatment and coercion. After the court heard evidence concerning the first defendant's interrogation, a deal was reached whereby he was acquitted and the remaining four defendants were convicted on lesser charges. The four were released having served two years in pre-trial detention. Eight people were tried in connection with a 1991 bomb attack on the security forces in the Ballymurphy area of Belfast (see Amnesty International Report 1992). In March, one of them was sentenced to 14 years' imprisonment for attempted murder; the trial of the seven others had not been concluded by the end of the year. Amnesty International sent lawyers to observe proceedings in both trials.

Several people being deported were ill-treated by police and private security firm officers. Jamaican-born Joy Gardner died after she was seized by police for deportation at her home in August. Tape was placed over her mouth and a body-belt tied around her waist restraining her arms behind her back. An independent post-mortem found that she had died as a result of a form of suffocation. The specialist police deportation unit and the officers involved were suspended, and the Metropolitan Police and the Home Office initiated inquiries into the police role in forcible deportations.

In July the inquest into the 1991 death in custody of Omasese Lumumba, a Zairian asylum-seeker, found that he had been unlawfully killed as a result of the "use of improper methods and excessive force in the process of control and restraint" by London prison officers. No disciplinary or criminal proceedings were brought against any of the prison officers involved.

During the year action was taken in relation to killings or attempted killings by soldiers in 1993 and previous years. In October a soldier was charged with the attempted murder that month of a mourner at the house of an IRA man who had blown himself up during a bomb attack in Belfast.

In June, one soldier was convicted of the murder of Karen Reilly and another soldier of the attempted murder of Martin Peake in September 1990 (see Amnesty International Report 1992). The trial in November of two soldiers charged with the 1990 murder of Fergal Caraher and the attempted murder of Míce l Caraher resulted in acquittals (see Amnesty International Report 1991). An Amnesty International delegate attended part of the trial.

The inquest into the 1986 death of Seamus McElwaine found that he had been shot dead by soldiers of the Special Air Service (SAS) regiment. The inquest found that he had been wounded and incapacitated, questioned by the soldiers, then, within five minutes, shot dead. The Director of Public Prosecutions requested a full report from the police. No prosecutions had been brought by the end of the year.

The inquest into the deaths of John McNeill, Peter Thompson and Edward Hale, who were killed by undercover soldiers in 1990 (see Amnesty International Report 1991), began in April, but was postponed after legal challenges were made against the government's issuing of Public Interest Immunity Certificates. These certificates would have allowed army witnesses to testify behind screens and would have excluded certain evidence from oral testimony.

In September the European Commission on Human Rights declared admissible an application made by the families of three IRA members who were shot dead by the sas in Gibraltar in 1988. The applicants argued that Article 2 of the European Convention (the right to life) required states to adopt clear, detailed rules strictly limiting the use of lethal force, and that the UK law was too vague to conform to Article 2. The applicants also contended that there should be an effective procedure for establishing the full facts but that the inquest procedure was inadequate.

The Northern Ireland authorities recalled Chief Constable John Stevens to investigate further alleged collusion between the security forces and Loyalist paramilitaries; the allegations had emerged during the 1992 trial of a military intelligence officer, Brian Nelson (see Amnesty International Reports 1991 and 1993).

Karamjit Singh Chahal, a Sikh asylum-seeker, remained in prison challenging a deportation order to India issued on "national security" grounds (see Amnesty International Report 1992). He had been detained without charge since August 1990.

Armed groups carried out deliberate and arbitrary killings and acts of torture. Loyalist armed groups claimed responsibility for killing 48 people, including 42 Catholic civilians. In January Patrick Shields and his son, Diarmuid, were shot dead and another son wounded in a UVF attack on their home. In August Sean Lavery, the son of a prominent member of Sinn Féin (widely considered to be the political wing of the IRA), was shot dead in the family home by the UDA/UFF. In September the UVF shot dead Jim Peacock, a prison officer. In October, seven people were killed and 11 injured when UDA/UFF gunmen sprayed machine-gun fire into a crowded pub. Fifty-seven men were hospitalized after being shot in the limbs as punishment; others were beaten.

Republican armed groups claimed responsibility for the killing in Northern Ireland of 14 members of the security forces and 21 civilians. In October an IRA bomb attack on a shop in the predominantly Protestant Shankill Road killed nine Protestants, including two children - seven-year-old Michelle Baird and 13-year-old Leanne Murray - and injured over 50 people. The IRA said it killed Aidan McGovern, a Catholic, in September for supplying building materials to the security forces. In June the Irish National Liberation Army killed John Murphy, a Catholic man who had worked for the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Northern Ireland police force, until 1991. Three civilians were killed in IRA bomb attacks in England, including three-year-old Johnathan Ball and 12-year-old Tim Parry in Warrington in March. Armed Republican groups also carried out punishment beatings and shot 27 men in the limbs. For example, Damian McCartan and Edward Kane were shot and maimed by the ira. Others were forced to leave Northern Ireland under threat.

In February Amnesty International published a report, Northern Ireland: The Right of Silence, which documented concerns about the application of the Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1988 and urged its repeal. In July Amnesty International published Northern Ireland: Fair trial concerns in Casement Park trials, about the trials of 41 people charged in connection with the murder of two soldiers during a funeral in Belfast in March 1988. It said that a wide-ranging independent inquiry should examine the cases of all those convicted in the Casement Park trials (see Amnesty International Report 1993). It also urged the government to refer immediately the cases of Patrick Kane, Michael Timmons and Sean Kelly to an appropriate judicial authority for further review.

Also in July Amnesty International wrote to the Home Secretary expressing concern that his labelling of John Matthews as a terrorist, based on secret information which could not be refuted, could make John Matthews a target for Loyalist armed groups in Northern Ireland.

In August Amnesty International urged the government to initiate an independent inquiry into the treatment of people being detained for deportation, as well as into the circumstances of the death of Joy Gardner, and the alleged ill-treatment of deportee Dorothy Nwokedi.

In November Amnesty International published United Kingdom: Unlawful killing of detained asylum-seeker Omasese Lumumba, which called for an independent inquiry into his death. The report also expressed concern about the government's handling of asylum claims and the detention of asylum-seekers, and urged the government to implement a series of specific recommendations.

Amnesty International urged the government not to forcibly deport Karamjit Singh Chahal to India where he would be at risk of serious human rights violations.

Amnesty International submitted its comments to the government on Draft Codes of Practice on the detention, treatment and interrogation procedures for suspects held under emergency legislation in Northern Ireland, which did not conform to international standards.

Amnesty International was concerned that the government's practice of issuing Public Interest Immunity Certificates in the context of inquests in Northern Ireland was being used to prevent the disclosure of information that was crucial to a full examination of killings in suspicious circumstances.

During the year Amnesty International publicly condemned human rights abuses by Republican and Loyalist armed groups and urged them to abide by minimum humane standards and to halt deliberate and arbitrary killings and torture.

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