Human rights lawyers in Northern Ireland are being “demonised” by the press and public officials, a new US report has claimed.
Human Rights First, based in New York, has published the findings of its research trip to Northern Ireland in March and April this year.
Brian Dooley, author of the report, said: “As new details emerge about killings during the Troubles, Britain’s right-wing press, public officials, and veterans’ groups are demonising solicitors who represent families of those killed by British security forces.
“History shows us that creating an atmosphere of suspicion around lawyers can lead to violence, which undermines the rule of law and prevents victims from ever finding justice.”
Mr Dooley added: “The UK looks in danger of backsliding on human rights commitments. The last year has seen press attacks on judges and on European human rights standards.
“The vilification of lawyers in Northern Ireland is part of a wider attack by elements of the press on the rule of law.”
The report recommends that the US government should “immediately use its special relationship with the UK government to urge a calming of rhetoric before the vilification of lawyers leads to violence”.
It also calls on Congress to renew its call for a full independent public inquiry into the 1989 murder of solicitor Pat Finucane.
Among other recommendations, the report also calls for US lawyers, academics and legal organisations to publicly raise their concerns with the UK government and with UK legal organisations.