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13 June 1997 Edition

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Human rights groups call for bullets ban

CLARA REILLY OF THE United Campaign Against Plastics (UCAPB) has called on the British Labour Party to ``honour their pre-election policy and ban [plastic bullets] immediately''. Reilly was speaking after the British government announced that its armed forces in the Six Counties had been using ``faulty'' plastic bullets since 1994.

The Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ), Sinn Féin and the SDLP echoed Reilly's call for plastic bullets to be banned.

Up to 9,000 rounds from a faulty consignment of bullets were fired by the crown forces since 1994 and before their withdrawal in April of this year. According to the British government's Defence Procurement Minister Lord Gilbert one third of a 284,500 batch of plastic bullets issued in 1994 had a velocity of 72-76 metres per second instead of the regulation 70 metres or 156 miles per hour.

Insisting that the weapon be banned Clara Reilly stated that the British government has before offered the excuse that some of those killed by the anti-riot weapon died because of faults. ``The design faults of these weapons had been known since 1974,'' she said. She also said it was ``significant that this admission comes days after a report by the largest human rights organisation in the USA damned the RUC and British Army for the use of these horrific weapons''.

Sinn Féin's national chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin also dismissed the news as ``a cynical attempt at damage limitation''.

``The injuries received by nationalist youths in the aftermath of Drumcree last year were not down to faulty weapons, but were the result of the RUC and British Army deliberately intending to kill or maim. Almost 5,000 of these bullets were fired in Derry alone over a three night period last July,'' he said.

Seventeen people, mostly children, have been killed by plastic and rubber bullets since their introduction, most struck in the upper body or head in contradiction to the regulations for the use of the weapon.

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