From Deepcut to Basra

Arab newspapers have been drawing some interesting parallels in relation to the News of the World’s video of army brutality in Basra.

The Saudi Gazette.. ..pours scorn on the idea that this was just an isolated incident caused by a few rogue elements within allied forces.

"No-one, especially in the Arab world, seriously believes for a nanosecond that the only time that abuse of Iraqis by British troops takes place is when it is captured on film," the editorial argues.

"British squaddies have a reputation for violence," it alleges, citing the investigation into the deaths of four young soldiers at the Deepcut training barracks as an example.

"The treatment of the young Iraqis required the tacit consent of officers and other soldiers present when this particular incident took place. The ‘few rotten apples’ theory just won’t do," the commentator concludes. (BBC News)

As it happens, the Deepcut and Beyond relatives were in Blackpool this past weekend to lobby Labour’s centenary conference. They issued the following statement:

Geoff Gray, whose son – Private Geoff Gray – died from gunshot wounds at Deepcut Barracks in Surrey said: “The families protesting in Blackpool have all suffered in different ways. What binds us together is that we are all fed up with trying to get the truth about how are children died. We all want those who are responsible for our children’s death to be brought to justice and held to account. We are all determined that the Army establishment be forced to change. That is the only way to restore the reputation of the Army and put a stop to unexplained deaths.”

Blackpool North MP, Joan Humble welcomed Deepcut & Beyond relatives to her constituency. She praised the families for their dignity in adversity and spoke of her admiration for their courage in taking on such a major campaign.

Local businessman, Joe McGregor whose son, Lance Corporal Derek McGregor died at Catterick Barracks, has been championing the campaign for a public inquiry in the area. He said: “My son died in July 2003 and I am still waiting for an inquest. I am still waiting for an explanation as to the circumstances of his death and who was responsible. The Army acts as if they think they can get away with anything. I want a full public inquiry to put a stop to that way of thinking. It’s the only way to get justice.”

Yorkshire-born Lynn Farr, whose son, Pte Daniel Farr, also died at Catterick has established the charitable Daniel Trust – named after her son and dedicated to combating ill-treatment of young soldiers. Mrs Farr said: “I hope this petition will draw attention to the breadth of concern about bullying in the armed forces and the double need for protection of victims and effective action against the perpetrators.”

The Deepcut Families are among the supporters of the End Impunity Campaign, as is Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers, which represents a number of Iraqi families.

Tony Blair said at the weekend that the Basra video would be investigated, but he did not say that any soldiers found guilty of wrongdoing would be kicked out of the Army. There’s nothing to stop the army deciding that the situation in Basra amounted to exceptional circumstances, similar to those which have been used to justify the retention of soldiers convicted of murder and manslaughter in the past.

That is why the Government should support the change in the law sought by the End Impunity Campaign, which has already won the support of 43 MPs from all parties.







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