Memorandum submitted by the Committee
on the Administration of Justice
Thank you very much for your letter of 12 February
and for the concern for fairness that underlies it. While I know
that it is normally not possible to get hold of statements made
to the Committee until the final report is published, it is clearly
difficult to respond to criticisms that we have not seen. Unfortunately,
no-one else has had the courtesy to draw these criticisms of CAJ
to our attention. I would be most appreciative if you could forward
me all relevant documentation.
In the meantime, let me try and respond to your
concerns. First, it is probably worth noting in passing that limited
resources mean that it is often difficult for CAJ to actively
engage on all the issues the Committee addresses. We have, for
example, been very active on the marching issue, and have had
observers out regularly each year monitoring the police treatment
of marchers and protesters, but we were unable to actively engage
in a study you undertook into that issue.
However, in the particular instance of your
inquiry into relocation following paramilitary intimidation, our
lack of involvement was not constrained by resources, but because
it falls largely out-with our remit. I enclose the relevant extract
of CAJ's statute and you will see that the work of the organisation
(since our inception in 1981) is focused on the administration
of justice, and the international standards pertaining thereto.
While we are totally opposed to the use of violence for political
ends, our work is focused on the State's responsibility to meet
its international human rights obligations. While the nature of
this work often exposes us to information that may be relevant
to your study, we can claim no particular expertise. Thus, for
example, we recently received a number of representations from
different individuals and organisations on the Shankill Road about
the inadequacy of the State's response to the loyalist violence.
We were informed of a number of very serious complaints about
the reaction of the police to paramilitary intimidation and of
the slowness in reaction generally by the statutory services.
However, we directed complainants to bodies that can most immediately
assist themthe Police Ombudsman's Office, the Housing Executive
etc. We assume that the Committee has accessed this kind of information
directly, and CAJ therefore had few helpful insights to offer.
By insisting on the highest standards in the
State's administration of justice, we hope to contribute to bringing
about a society in which abuses by paramilitary groups (and indeed
othersabusive partners, discriminating employers etc) will
not occur. However, it is not CAJ's remit to work directly on
the problems posed to society by such bodies. While we are very
aware that some people try to suggest that this implies an inherent
bias on our part, we refute this entirely. Should anyone require
further information about our stance, we would be more than happy
to respond in more detail. In the meantime, I look forward to
studying the testimony closely.
20 February 2001