Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bloody Sunday report: 38 years on, justice at last.

It's taken 38 long years but, at last, the UK government has admitted that the people shot on Bloody Sunday were innocent victims and that the story which the army have been insisting on for all that time was wrong.

The Bloody Sunday tribunal's repeated use of the term "unjustifiable" throughout the 5,000-page report, and its verdict that soldiers had lied to the inquiry, now opens up the possibility of legal action against former troops involved in the atrocity.

Fourteen unarmed civilians were shot dead by the Parachute Regiment which had been sent into Derry's Bogside on 30 January 1972. The deaths propelled a generation of nationalists into the Provisional IRA.

Saville's conclusion that none of the 14 dead was carrying a gun, no warnings were given, no soldiers were under threat and the troops were the first to open fire, marked a final declaration of innocence for the victims of the biggest British military killing of civilians on UK soil since the Peterloo massacre in 1819.

After the inquiries conclusion became clear, it was left for David Cameron to finally change the government's position and admit that innocent people had been killed.

"I never want to call into question the behaviour of our soldiers and our army, who I believe to be the finest in the world," Cameron told the Commons.

"But the conclusions of this report are absolutely clear. There is no doubt, there is nothing equivocal, there are no ambiguities. What happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable. It was wrong."

There is talk now that some soldiers might face prosecution for murder, perjury and perverting the course of justice, but only an idiot would hold their breath waiting for that. It's been 38 years since this massacre occurred, there is simply no way that a prosecution is going to take place now.

If there was no way to find enough evidence to secure a prosecution against the policemen who gunned down Jean Charles de Menezes, then the soldiers who did this can sleep safe in their beds.

It's taken the state almost four decades to even admit what has occurred here, so no-one should expect that anyone acting on behalf of the state will ever be prosecuted.

Sir Alasdair Fraser QC will be asked to assess the report to decide whether there is sufficient evidence for "a reasonable prospect for conviction" of paratroopers found to have participated in the killings.

Lord Gifford QC, who represented the family of civil rights marcher Jim Wray who died on Bloody Sunday, said: "There are a number of possible charges arising from this report which has been thorough and even-handed. Murder is of course the obvious one. But the report also found that soldiers deliberately attempted to mislead the inquiry."

I would put money on it that Fraser will conclude that there is not "a reasonable prospect for conviction" after 38 years and that that will be the end of the matter.

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