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21 August 2003 Edition

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Killers to stay in British Army

The family of Peter McBride, a north Belfast father of two shot dead by British soldiers in 1992, may take the British government to the European Court of Human Rights over the British Ministry of Defence's decision not to discharge the two Scots Guards convicted of the murder.

The MoD informed the Derry-based Pat Finucane Centre last week that there would be no action taken against Guardsmen James Fisher and Mark Wright, who were convicted of murder. British Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram informed the Pat Finucane Centre that "there are no plans for the [Army] Board to further review their [Wright &Fisher] employment status."

The refusal of the MoD to review the case comes despite a Court of Appeal judgement in June which held that the 'exceptional reasons' offered by the Army Board as justification for retention of the convicted murderers were not 'exceptional' under law. In the wake of that judgement the Independent Assessor on Military Complaints also called for an independent board to review the case. This has also been rejected.

It has also emerged that one of the convicted men, James Fisher, has been promoted to Lance Corporal.

The letter, which was signed by the British forces minister Adam Ingram, was dated 7 August, four days before the McBride family met NIO Human Rights Minister John Spellar. Despite this, the NIO Minister was unable to inform the McBride family of the MoD decision. The NIO have claimed that Spellar was unaware of the decision until 13 August.

In 2002, Spellar sat on the British Army board that allowed the two convicted killers to remain in the British Army. He was only appointed to the NIO in June.

Jean McBride, Peter's mother, described taking the British government to Strasburg as a distinct possibility. "The British government has left me without a son and two children without a father," she said.

Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly is to raise the Peter McBride case as a matter of urgency with British Defence Minister Geoff Hoon.

Party president Gerry Adams has said the position adopted by John Spellar is completely unacceptable.

Speaking on Tuesday, the Sinn Féin president pointed out that Spellar initially refused to meet with the McBride family to discuss his role in retaining the killers of Peter McBride in the British Army. "This is an issue which is of concern to nationalists in general and to Sinn Féin in particular, given that his responsibilities cover human rights," said Adams.

"We have raised this with Mr Spellar and his office on a number of occasions. Eventually, he agreed to meet with the McBride family. However, his attitude to Jean McBride and her family at that meeting was completely unacceptable.

"Mr Spellar needs to realise that he has responsibility for human rights matters. He cannot divorce this from his previous role in retaining the killers of Peter McBride in the British Army. It is up to Mr Spellar to gain the confidence of the republican and nationalist community in his ability to carry out his duties. So far he has failed to do this. More immediately the British Ministry of Defence must move to dismiss the killers of Peter McBride from their ranks."

Protestors on Tuesday disrupted the launch of a new transport system in Belfast, which was being hosted by John Spellar.

Members of the Pat Finucane Centre held up banners demanding justice for Peter McBride as Spellar attempted to launch a new Global Positioning System for Belfast buses. Speaking afterwards, PFC spokesperson Shane O'Curry said:

"If this man thinks he can walk in here and tackle issues of human rights, equality and criminal justice while ignoring the abuse of those issues that he has been involved in, then he needs a global positioning system of his own. This man is not suitable to hold any such office, and should be removed immediately."

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