Phil Shiner to speak at End Impunity Campaign meeting

Solicitor Phil Shiner is to speak at the launch of the Article Seven – End Impunity Campaign in London next month.

Shiner, of Public Interest Lawyers, is best known for his work representing Iraqi victims of human rights abuses by coalition forces, and the families of British soldiers killed in Iraq.

The campaign will seek to change a loophole in the law, which can allow soldiers convicted of serious human rights abuses to remain in the army.

The most notorious instance of this is the case of 18-year old Belfast man, Peter McBride, shot dead by two Scots Guards in 1992. The soldiers, Mark Wright and James Fisher, were convicted of murder but were freed early from jail, and were allowed to continue serving in the army. The MOD has refused to review the decision in spite of two court rulings.

Wright and Fisher were later sent to Iraq with the Irish Guards, a unit which has since been accused of human rights abuses.

In future, soldiers convicted of human rights abuses in Iraq could cite the treatment of Wright and Fisher as a precedent to allow them to remain in the army.

The Article Seven – End Impunity Campaign seeks to change the law to ensure that soldiers convicted of serious human rights abuses such as murder, torture or rape must be discharged.

The campaign launch will take place at a public meeting in the Assembly Room at London’s City Hall, from 7pm on 5 September. As well as Phil Shiner, speakers will include London Mayor Ken Livingstone, prominent barrister Michael Mansfield, University of Ulster law lecturer Angela Hegarty, and Guardian writer Roy Greenslade.

The Pat Finucane Centre has produced a briefing on the campaign:

Article 7 – End Impunity Campaign


Two British soldiers, Wright and Fisher, were convicted of the 1992 murder of 18 year old Peter McBride in North Belfast in 1992.  They were released and allowed to resume military service in 1998 after a campaign by the right wing media and retired army officers.  Under British law, the soldiers should have been dismissed from military service.  However, a loophole exists that allows soldiers to remain in the military if a military board finds that there were exceptional circumstances. 

Article 7- End Impunity Campaign
The Article 7-End Impunity Campaign seeks to remove the loophole that allows military personnel convicted of serious crimes such as murder, rape or torture to remain in service.   The campaign is based on Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that states that “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.”  [1]

Victims of serious crimes such as murder, rape, and torture are not afforded equal protection of the law if the perpetrator is allowed to return to a position where they are responsible for protecting the public.  Allowing the convicted perpetrator impunity to remain in service compounds the hurt experienced by the victim and the victim’s family in that it implies that they or their loved one are not important enough to be protected. Inherently, allowing a person convicted of a serious crime to continue in the military implies that some are afforded more protection than others.

Impunity, as defined by Amnesty International is the failure to bring to justice those who commit serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. [2] The impunity created by allowing military personnel to return to service after being convicted of a serious crime such as murder, rape, or torture, is dangerous because it sends the message to the military as well as the public that the military is “above the law” even in cases of serious human rights violations.  In effect, such impunity allows the military to act outside of the law with little or no consequences.

Peter McBrides killers, Wright and Fisher served in Iraq after being allowed to continue their military careers.  This sends a disastrous message to other soldiers that they can get away with murder.  There are grave implications for the safety of the people of Iraq when soldiers have little if any expectation of accountability for human rights abuses they commit.

“Impunity must also be overcome because it denies justice to the victims, robbing them a second time of their rights.  Impunity itself can be seen as a multiple human rights violation, denying the victims and their relatives the right to have the truth established and acknowledged, the right to see justice done and the right to an effective remedy to obtain reparation.  It prolongs the original hurt by seeking to deny that it ever took place – a further affront to the dignity and humanity of the victim.” [3]

Governments have the responsibility to ensure the protection of the human rights of all of their citizens and to ensure that all are equal before the law and are afforded equal protection under the law as required by Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Additional information is available on the Pat Finucane Centre website at  The Pat Finucane Centre can be reached at (028) 7126 8846 or via email at


[1] Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 7

[2] Amnesty International: Zimbabwe, The toll of impunity

[3] Amnesty International: End Impunity, Justice for the victims of torture, pg6.







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