Irish Republican News · November 2, 2005
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Plastic bullet use investigated

The British Army's unaccountable use of plastic bullets is the focus of a new human-rights report sent to the United Nations and the United States Congress.

The report compiled by the London-based group British-Irish Rights Watch centres on the lack of independent scrutiny of plastic bullets fired by soldiers.

PSNI members have to explain to the Police Ombudsman their reasons for firing every plastic bullet, but no such checks are in place for rounds fired by the British Army.

Of the 17 people killed by plastic bullets since 1976, 11 were shot dead by the British Army, the majority being children.

The British Army is also responsible for firing a quarter of all plastic bullets in the North since the onset of the conflict.

British-Irish Rights Watch director Jane Winter said the use of plastic bullets during recent riots in Belfast had prompted her organisation to produce a report chronicling their use in the conflict.

She said: "We are particularly concerned by the use of plastic bullets as a means of crowd control."

"In England and Wales, where they are also deployed, they are only used in one-on-one situations, as a less lethal alternative to live ammunition."

Ms Winter added: "Plastic bullets have not been fired in Derry for over seven years, despite some serious public disorder at times, so there is another way.

"Our report, which has been sent to the government, the United Nations, the American Congress and other relevant bodies, has called again for a ban on plastic bullets."

The Independent Assessor of Military Complaints has the power to insist that every member of the British Army who fires a plastic bullet must fill out a report detailing the incident.

In addition, the assessor can ask the British Army's plain-clothes Special Investigations Branch to interview soldiers who fire plastic bullets.

The assessor is currently preparing a report on the British Army's use of plastic bullets during unionist rioting in September.

However, the British Army's use of plastic bullets during nationalist rioting in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast during July is not being probed.

Other human-rights organisations have called for a ban on plastic bullets, including Relatives for Justice, the Pat Finucane Centre and the Committee on the Administration of Justice.

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© 2005 Irish Republican News