WEDNESDAY 18 JULY 2001
The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission today called on the Chief Constable of the RUC to follow the lead of some Chief Constables in England by declaring that he would no longer use plastic bullets as a method of crowd control in Northern Ireland.
The Commission made its call after considering again the information in its possession concerning the new plastic baton round available to the RUC as from 1 June 2001. Basing itself on the report prepared for Government by the Defence Scientific Advisory Council, the Commission reiterated its view that the new weapon appears to be even more dangerous than the weapon it replaced. The Commission believes that using plastic bullets as a method of crowd control is a disproportionate use of force.
The Chief Commissioner of the Commission, Professor Brice Dickson, said:
"The Commission recognises the intense pressure and difficulties which police officers in Northern Ireland face when confronting rioters. These have been all too obvious in recent days. We nevertheless note that, even though there have been serious riots in England in recent weeks, various police forces there, including the Metropolitan Police, have indicated that it was not necessary to resort to the use of plastic bullets. The Commission feels that now is the time for the RUC Chief Constable to adopt the same policy."
The Commission added that the Government should intensify its efforts to develop other, safer methods of crowd control, particularly when young children are involved.
For further information, please contact Nadia Downing on 028 9024 3987 (wk) or 07818 008 442 (mbl) or Brice Dickson on 028 9024 3987 (wk) or 07801 853005 (mbl).
Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission
United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets
235a Falls Road, Belfast, BT12 4PE;
Tel: 028 90220100; Fax: 028 90220101;
Speaking today following the NIHRC decision to recommend that plastic bullets not be used in crowd control situations Clara Reilly, chairperson of the United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets said:
" We are pleased to see that the NIHRC is at last deciding to move in the right direction. However we are disappointed that they have not called for the total ban on plastic bullets.
"The Human Rights Commission is out of step with the international human rights community on this issue. Bodies from the Irish Government, the United Nations Committee Against Torture, the European Parliament, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Relatives for Justice, the Pat Finucane Centre and the Committee on the Administration of Justice - and last night Derry City Council - have all called for an unequivocal ban on the plastic bullet.
"This is not a pedantic argument. The courts have found that vast majority of people killed by plastic bullets were totally innocent and killed in non-riot situations. Plastic bullets are a lethal weapon which have killed and maimed in non-riot situations.
"In fact recent events during which plastic bullets have been fired are grim reminders of past incidents where fatalities have occurred. In Ardoyne last week plastic bullets were fired through living room windows. In 1981 Peter Doherty was killed when plastic bullets were fired through his living room window. Similarly Mrs Emma Groves was blinded when shot by a rubber bullet through her window. It is only by luck no one was killed last week.
"Ronnie Flanagans claims that lives were saved by using plastic bullets are completely scurrilous. The disproportionate use of plastic bullets against one section of the community as in Ardoyne last week highlights the overtly sectarian nature of the use of plastic bullets. Ronnie Flanagans militaristic approach to policing must be replaced with one based on human rights protection - not violations.
"Human rights protection of those most vulnerable, must be a fundamental priority. We encourage the Human Rights Commission to go the extra mile and call for a complete ban on plastic bullets."
United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets
235a Falls Road, Belfast, BT12 4PE
Tel: 028 90220100; Fax: 02890220101