29 April 2005

Daily Ireland

Campaign moves to London to highlight McBride injustice

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Thirteen years after he was murdered by the British army in the New Lodge area of north Belfast, the name of teenager Peter McBride is echoing through the 2005 Westminster election campaign in the heart of London.
The 18-year-old Mr McBride was shot in the back on September 4, 1992 by members of a Scots Guards patrol.
Two soldiers — Mark Wright and James Fisher — were subsequently convicted of his murder.
After receiving early release, both men were readmitted to the British army by a Ministry of Defence board on the grounds of “exceptional circumstances”.
They still remain employed on active duty by the British army, despite the fact that the High Court in Belfast has twice concluded that the circumstances of their case are not exceptional.
With the support of the Derry-based Pat Finucane Centre, Mr McBride’s family has waged a campaign to have both murderers thrown out of the British army.
A key development in that campaign took place last week when Mr McBride’s sister Kelly met London Mayor Ken Livingstone and Yasmin Qureshi, the Labour Party parliamentary candidate for Brent East.
Brent East, in the northwest of London, has the largest concentration of Irish citizens voting in any of the city’s constituencies.
The object of last week’s meeting was to garner support for the McBride family’s latest campaign initiative.
Essentially, the family wants to change the law during the next term of parliament so that anyone convicted of a serious offence such as murder, rape or torture is automatically expelled from the British army.
Kelly McBride stood in a by-election for Brent East 18 months ago to raise the profile of her family’s plea for justice. Paul O’Connor of the Pat Finucane Centre accompanied Ms McBride to London last week.
Speaking to Daily Ireland yesterday, Mr O’Connor said that Brent East was an appropriate place to launch what is being dubbed the Article 7 Campaign.
The campaign gets its name from Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which begins: “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.”
Mr O’Connor said: “Because the Ministry of Defence keeps ignoring court judgments and moving the goalposts, we have come up with a relatively simple idea that is about 200 years out of date — that someone convicted of a very serious offence such as murder, rape or torture should be automatically dismissed from the British army.
“It’s similar to proposing that children would not be sent down the mines, and that’s why one would naturally think that this provision would be in the law. Britain is the only European country that allows convicted murderers to be retained in the army.
“The final straw was that General Mike Jackson — the head of the British army and someone who sat on the MOD board which permitted Fisher and Wright to be retained — and the Prime Minister apologised to the Iraqi people for the behaviour of British soldiers who they said were responsible for bringing disgrace to the British army there and who were dismissed. By implication, Wright and Fisher did not bring the British army into disgrace when they murdered Peter McBride.
“Basically, we’re asking the question: Do you believe that the law in Britain should be changed so that anyone convicted of murder, rape or torture should be automatically expelled from the armed forces? It’s a very hard one for them to argue against,” said Mr O’Connor.
Campaigners are now hoping to tap into London’s Muslim communities and the significant opposition to the war against Iraq to bring about a change in the law.
Ken Livingstone’s office is also including information about the campaign in a mayoral newspaper circulated to 3.5 million people throughout London.
On account of Yasmin Qureshi’s pledge to seek to introduce the new legislation, she has received the backing of the Irish community in London.
“Mark Wright and Jim Fisher shot 18-year-old Peter McBride in the back after they had searched him and knew him to be unarmed. In anyone’s book, that was murder,” she said.
“They served just a few years for this crime and were readmitted into the army. I believe it is right to kick anyone found guilty of abusing prisoners out of the army and it is equally right that those found guilty of murdering civilians in Ireland can have no place in the army.
“I will give my full support to Peter McBride’s family’s campaign and raise it in parliament and directly with the government.”
Kelly McBride told Daily Ireland yesterday that her family was “very, very grateful to Yasmin and Ken Livingstone, as well as Sarah Tether, the Liberal Democrat who holds the seat.
“They’ve been very supportive of our family.
“What many people seem to forget is that this is an ongoing injustice. As of today, April 27, 2005, the two people who murdered my brother remain in the British armed forces and we’re going to keep pushing this campaign.
“The next thing will be a large public meeting in London and an appeal to people concerned about the Iraq situation to support this change in the law,” Ms McBride said.
Prominent Irish-American lobby groups have already mobilised over other aspects of the campaign to have Peter McBride’s murderers thrown out of the British army.
The latest initiative on this side of the Atlantic will ensure that the injustice in Peter McBride’s case continues to be a thorn in the side of the British government.

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