by Democrat reporter
THE UNITED Campaign Against Plastic Bullets, Relatives for Justice and the Pat Finucane Centre have called on the new six-county policing board to insist that the British army is subjected to the same control as police officers when firing potentially-lethal plastic bullets in so-called ‘policing situations’.
The call follow the ongoing refusal of minister of state Adam Ingram MP to reveal the guidelines governing the British army’s use of plastic bullets to parliament.
Ninety-nine point six per cent (14,801) of all plastic bullets fired by the British Army since 1981 have been fired in the north of Ireland. Of the seventeen Irish people killed by rubber and plastic bullets since 1972, twelve of have been killed by British army personnel.
The Policing Board are ultimately accountable for all plastic bullets fired by the RUC/PSNI, insist campaigners. Complaints against the army’s use of plastic bullets can be made to the Independent Assessor of Military Complaints. However, the body is widely regarded as being ineffectual, and its existence is neither not widely known nor publicised.
“If a member of the RUC/PSNI fires a plastic bullet in North Belfast tonight there is an automatic investigation by the Ombudsman,” said Clara Reilly, spokesperson for the United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets. “If the same person tells a British soldier standing beside him/her to fire this lethal weapon there is no investigation.
“Now we are told that complaints about British army use should be made to the PSNI yet they are no longer deemed fit to investigate complaints against themselves.”
Campaigners argue that, given the former RUC’s failure to investigate the deaths caused through plastic bullets fired by the British Army effectively and impartially, it is impossible for people to be confident that there will be any change in the future?
Until plastic bullets are completely banned, insist the campaign, the only tenable position is for the Policing Board is to demand the declassification of the British Army’s rules governing the use of plastic bullets as a minimum first step.
“The second step would be to ensure that the use of plastic bullets by the British Army also results in automatic and independent investigation. Realisation of these two demands will result in a reduction in the amount of plastic bullets fired. Until then the Policing Board must accept all responsibility for the consequences of their use.”
The United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets, Relatives for Justice and the Pat Finucane Centre are calling on the churches, trade unions and the political parties to back their campaign for declassification of the existing MoD guidelines.
Further details from the Pat Finucane Centre and the United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets via the PFC website at www.serve.com/pfc/
To demand action contact the Minister for State, Adam Ingram MP at: firstname.lastname@example.org (MoD); tel. 020 7219 4093 (House of Commons); and email@example.com (NI policing board) PBR fired for the first time in Britain A PLASTIC baton round has been fired for the first time by a British police force outside the six counties. On Wednesday 27 February, 30-year-old Steven Myers, who was armed with a knife, was shot in the abdomen by an officer from the North Wales Police force during a domestic disturbance in Old Colwyn, near Llandudno. Myers was taken to hospital suffering from bruising and possible internal bleeding. He was released two days later and charged with making a threat to kill, affray and criminal damage. The use of plastic baton rounds outside the six counties was approved by British former home secretary Jack Straw in June 2001 after the introduction of a new, modified version of the weapon, said by the government to be less lethal than the old version — a claim contradicted by the government’s own research.
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