16 December 1999 Edition

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Hamill Campaign gets London boost

Three of London's most eminent lawyers and human rights campaigners joined Diane Hamill in Camden Council Chamber in London on Tuesday 14 December to speak to a joint meeting of the Robert Hamill Campaign and the recently formed National Civil Rights Movement. The NCRM provides support for the victims of racial injustice and promotes family-based campaigns to challenge the criminal justice system and institutional racism.

Diane Hamill explained the circumstances of her brother's murder, and the subsequent police harassment faced by her family, particularly one of her brothers. She recounted a number of incidents of overt police intimidation, including her wedding day when, as she left the hairdressers, she discovered her car had been deliberately blocked in a nearby car park by a police Land Rover

Imran Khan, solicitor to the Stephen Lawrence family, Michael Mansfield QC, Gareth Peirce, together with Sukhdev Reel, mother of racist murder victim Ricky Reel, Suresh Grover of the Southall Monitoring Group, Jeremy Hardy and Dr Robbie McVeigh of the Rosemary Nelson Campaign, gathered to urge those present to become involved in the various campaigns for truth and justice and to join the National Civil Rights Movement.

Suresh Grover told the audience that the Metropolitan Police inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence had been ``an epic tale of racism, an epic tale of corruption'' and urged increased solidarity between black and Irish people in campaigning for the human and civil rights of both groups. He said that whilst this and a number of other individual campaigns had succeeded in calling the authorities to account, a more systematic approach was needed.

``Where we have failed is in linking organically the anti-racist struggle with the struggle of other communities in this country, in particular the struggle of the Irish people, and we cannot go into the next century in that predicament. We say that the murder of Robert Hamill was a racist murder in the same way as the murder of Stephen Lawrence.''

In an impassioned contribution, Michael Mansfield QC, who for legal reasons was unable to speak directly about Robert Hamill, outlined the malign, anti-democratic effects of both the new Criminal Justice Act and the new permanent Prevention of Terrorism Act which also received its first reading in the British parliament on Tuesday to profound disquiet on the part of civil rights campaigns and a number of Labour backbenchers.

Referring to the case of Stephen Lawrence, he talked about precisely what campaigners mean when they speak of the corruption of the Metropolitan Police Force. By corruption, he said, he did not mean ``corruption in the [Neil] Hamilton sense of money in brown envelopes'' but ``a different kind of corruption and that is intellectual corruption. Actually, racism itself is corruption, whether it occurs in Ireland or whether it occurs here''.

Speaking about Robert Hamill, Jeremy Hardy explained to the audience that his murder should be classified as racist. ``Sectarianism in Ireland is not a matter of theological difference. Loyalists have a settler mentality, a colonial mentality. They do see Catholics as inferior. They're all right if they know their place, if they're not uppity. When they get uppity, some of them have to be taught a lesson to keep them in their place. Portadown is the absolute crucible of this and it has got worse since the Garvaghy residents have said `we are not putting up with it any more'. Sectarian murders have got worse in Portadown because they are determined to get a march down that road.''

British Labour MP Kevin McNamara called on Wednesday, 8 December for an independent judicial inquiry into the killing of Robert Hamill. McNamara urged MPs to back Sinn Féin, Amnesty International, the International Relations Committee of the US Congress, the SDLP, Alliance and the Woman's Coalition in calling for an inquiry.

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