Republican News · Thursday 07 December 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Paras face Kosovo murder charges

Three members of the 1st Battalion of the Parachute Regiment who shot dead two Albanians whilst on tour in the Kosovan capital, Pristina, last year will learn this week whether they are to be charged with the killings. The Ministry of Defence said a final decision would would take into account whether it was ``in the public and Service interest `` to charge the soldiers.

Fahri Bici aged 20, was killed instantly when the three members of a patrol opened fire on a car in which he was travelling. His companion, Avni Dudi, 24, was fatally wounded and died later from his injuries. The incident occurred on 3 July as Albanians celebrated the ninth anniversary of Kosovo's claim to independence from Yugoslavia.

The story being vigorously promoted by army sources and their media friends is that the patrol was called upon to defend 50 ``terrified'' Serbian civilians from members of the Kosovo Liberation Army ``roaming Pristina''. The soldiers claim that they were under threat from Albanian ``gunmen'' brandishing AK47s and firing into the air. In response, the Paras took ``aimed shots'', killing the two young men in the process.

The Parachute Regiment and their military superiors labelling innocent civilians as ``gunmen'' in order to disguise their crimes has a familiar ring to it and as such their version of events is a long way from being credible. But even if the account given by the soldiers were to be accepted at face value, the firing of a gun into the air during a celebration could hardly be construed as having constituted an immediate and direct threat to the members of the patrol.

The possibility of murder charges being brought provoked outrage from British right-wingers in Parliament and in the media. Iain Duncan Smith, the Shadow Defence Secretary and himself a former Scots Guards officer - another regiment with an ignominious track record - claimed that any charges would undermine the ``ethos'' of the army. ``We are in danger of producing servicemen whose only purpose will be to deliver tea and sympathy, rather than carry out their proper combat duties,'' he told The Times, accusing the British government of ``allowing the European Convention on Human Rights to dominate policy in relation to the military''.

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