‘Getting Away With Murder – From the Bogside to Basra’

On Friday 21 May 2004 a vigil was held in Derry to show solidarity with Iraqi families who have lost loved ones murdered by the British Army. The theme of the vigil was 'Getting Away with Murder - From the Bogside to Basra. The vigil was organised by Derry families who have lost loved ones in similar circumstances and drew links between the horrific stories coming out of Iraq with the reality in Derry, Belfast and elsewhere for so many years.

A number of relatives from Derry read out short testimonials recalling the circumstances of their own loss as well as the story of an individual killed at the hands of the British Army in southern Iraq.

These stories are documented here.



The killings documented here include those of children, teenagers, mothers and fathers in circumstances where the use of lethal force was wholly unjustified. In all but one of these cases, no soldier was ever prosecuted because there was no proper investigation carried out.

In Northern Ireland, in the early 1970's, an agreement was reached between the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and the General Officer Commanding of the British Army about the conduct of investigations of lethal force incidents. The agreement was that "the Royal Military Police (RMP) would tend to military witnesses and the RUC to civilian witnesses in the investigation of offences and incidents."(1) Soldiers were not interviewed under caution and were treated only as eyewitnesses. According to INQ 3, a former RMP officer who gave evidence at the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, "it was not a very formal procedure ... we usually discussed the incident over sandwiches and tea." Not surprisingly, therefore, soldiers were not prosecuted for the killing of civilians during this period.

INQ3 states that the period in which this agreement applied was early 1970 until November 1972, in which time the British army was responsible for 123 deaths. However, in recent correspondence from the Ministry of Defence to the Pat Finucane Centre, it quoted a much wider period of application - from September 1970 until September 1973. During this time, the British army was responsible for 154 deaths.

In 2003 the legality of the use of the RMP to investigate lethal force incidents was successfully challenged by the family of Kathleen Thompson, a mother of six children who was killed by the British Army in 1971. In the High Court in Northern Ireland, Kerr.J concluded that judged by the standards that applied at the time the interview by the RMP of the soldier who shot Mrs Thompson did not satisfy the procedural requirements as were required to ensure that Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) was complied with.

In Iraq some of the killings of Iraqi civilians by the British Army are being investigated by the RMP.(2) Not only has this practice been condemned by the High Court of Northern Ireland, it is also contrary to international human rights law such as the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).

The United Kingdom is signatory to the ECHR. The Convention has extra-territorial applicability in that contracting states must also take responsibility for the actions of its armed forces outside its national territory.

Article 2 of the ECHR guarantees the right to life and the case law of the Court has established in Jordan v UK [2001] a detailed set of guidelines(3) as to what a state must do in order to secure the right to life. These include that an effective official investigation should be held when a person has been killed as a result of the use of force by agents of the state. In order for an investigation to be effective, it must be prompt, thorough, independent and impartial.

The British government has violated the right to life of Iraqi civilians under Article 2 of the ECHR. In some of the killings involving Iraqi civilians there have been no investigations at all and those that are investigated lack the requisite degree of independence necessary under Article 2 of the Convention because the investigation is carried out by the RMP. According to Amnesty International, "RMP investigations are shrouded in secrecy and lack the level of public scrutiny required by international standards".(4)

The families of civilians killed in Northern Ireland over the course of the troubles have also been denied their Article 2 rights. The killings of their loved ones will not be re-investigated, despite the ruling in Jordan v UK. The House of Lords ruled in Re McKerr(5) there was no obligation under domestic law to re-investigate killings before 2 October 2000, the date on which the Human Rights Act 1998 came into force.

At the vigil in Derry, the families laid a map of Iraqi on the Guildhall Square and wrote on it:

Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere (Martin Luther King).

These words summed up the feelings of the Derry families that for many years the British government has disregarded the lives of Irish civilians and uses its experience in Northern Ireland to perpetrate human rights abuses in southern Iraq.


(1)  Evidence given by INQ 3, a former member of the RMP, at the Bloody Sunday Inquiry - 30/03/00. Soldiers giving evidence to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry have been given anonymity and are known only by a code.
(2)  Not all killings are investigated. Amnesty International recorded as of 2 February 2004, 37 deaths of civilians by UK troops, of these only 18 had been investigated by the RMP. Iraq - Killings of Civilians in Basra and al-'Amara, Amnesty International, 11 May 2004. Furthermore, according to a story in the Independent on Sunday 3 October 2004, pg. 2, the RMP is conducting a joint investigation with the Kenyan authorities into allegations of the rape of 650 Kenyan women by British troops over three decades. The RMP has attempted to discredit local police records and the accounts of some of the victims. 
(3)  Jordan v UK 2001, para 105.
(4)  Iraq - Killings of Civilians in Basra and al-'Amara, Amnesty International, 11 May 2004.
(5)  [2004] UKHL 12.






1.  Testimony of Billy Thompson

Derry 1971, Kathleen Thompson, 47

On 6 November 1971, my mother, Kathleen Thompson, was shot and killed while standing in her back garden by soldier 'D' from the 2nd Battalion Royal Green Jackets. My mother left behind six children. 
The British army claimed that two shots were fired at them, however there was no evidence of this. 
No proper investigation was ever carried out by the RUC. The soldiers' version of events went unchallenged because their statements were taken by the Royal Military Police. 
The inquest into her death delivered an open verdict. No soldiers were ever prosecuted with her killing. 
In 1980 my father received a cheque for £84.07. He tore it up.

Basra 2003, Hanan Shmailawi, 33

On 10 November 2003 Hanan Shmailawi, aged 33, was sitting down to supper with her husband and children when shots were fired into the room. She was shot in the head and legs and was rushed to hospital but died later that night. Soldiers from C Company, 1st Battalion, the Kings Regiment fired the shots. Her husband said, "Those present were terrified and could not understand why British soldiers would fire into our home."
The Ministry of Defence has not accepted liability for her death.



2.  Testimony of Helen Deery

Derry 1972, Manus Deery, 15

On 19 May 1972 my brother, Manus Deery, was sharing a bag of chips with his friends when he was shot and killed by soldier 'A' from C Company, 1st Battalion, the Royal Welch Fusiliers. Manus had just received his first pay packet that evening. 
Manus and his friends were standing behind the Bogside Inn when the soldiers opened fire from the Derry walls. The soldiers claimed there was a gunman in the area at the time. Manus was struck by a bullet on the side of the head. 
There was no evidence of an RUC investigation. The soldiers' version of events went unchallenged because their statements were taken by the Royal Military Police. 
No soldiers were ever prosecuted with his killing.

Basra 2003, Ahmed Jabbar Karim, 17

Ahmed Jabbar Karim Ali, aged 17, was on his way to work with his brother when British soldiers captured him on 8 May 2003. He was badly beaten and then ordered to swim across a river. Weakened from the beating he received from the soldiers, he floundered. He was dead when he was pulled from the river. 
During the investigation into his death, his body was exhumed and taken to an American military base without the family's knowledge. His father has never been contacted about the outcome of the investigation. 
Ahmed's father wrote: "As a parent my feelings are deeply hurt and I am suffering from great sadness."



3.  Testimony of Michael English

Derry 1981 and 1985, Gary and Charles English, 19 & 21

My son Gary English, who was 19, died on Easter Sunday on 19 April 1981. Gary was struck by a British army landrover. The landrover was driven by Stephen Neville Buzzard under the command of Hugh Dalton Smith both of B Company, 2nd Battalion, the Royal Anglian Regiment. 
Gary was struck by the landrover and as he lay on the ground unconscious the vehicle was reversed over his body. Another young man, Jim Brown, was also killed by the same landrover. 
The soldiers were not charged with murder but rather a lesser offence of reckless driving, both were acquitted at trial. 
My son Charles then made his own decision. He joined the IRA and was killed on 6 August 1985 when a homemade rocket launcher exploded in his hands.

Basra 2003, Lafteh Ahmed Awdeh, 22

Lafteh Ahmed Awdeh, aged 22, was killed by a British army vehicle on September 4 2003. 
Lafteh was working in the fields with his father when a column of British Army vehicles cut across the field. The driver of the truck tried to negotiate a ditch but hit the young man. He was thrown into the air and died instantly. The truck sped away with all the other vehicles leaving him dead by the side of the road. 
The Ministry of Defence has not accepted liability for his death.



4.  Testimony of Emmett McConomy

Derry 1982, Stephen McConomy, 11

On 16 April 1982 my 11-year-old brother, Stephen McConomy, left home after his dinner. My mother never saw her son alive again.
Stephen was among a group of youngsters aged between 9 and 12 hanging around a British army Saracen on Fahan Street. Some of the children were messing around throwing stones and trying to decorate the vehicle with a tricolour. While Stephen walked away, with his hands in his pockets, the hatch of the vehicle opened and a single plastic bullet was aimed and fired at Stephen. It hit him in the back of the head; he died three days later in hospital. 
By-standers, who attempted to help Stephen, were threatened at gunpoint by the soldiers.
Lance Corporal Nigel Robert Englefield of the 2nd Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment fired the shot that killed Stephen. Also present in the Saracen were Private Kenneth Edward Fountain, Private Mark Gardner and Private Colin Prentice.
No soldiers were ever prosecuted with his killing.

Basra 2003, Hanan Saleh Matrud, 8

On 21 August 2003 a soldier from B Company, 1st Battalion of the King's Regiment shot and killed Hanan Saleh Matrud, an eight year old girl.
A Warrior armoured vehicle stopped near an alley that leads to Hanan's home. Three or four soldiers got out. A group of children, including Hanan gathered, attracted by the soldiers. Suddenly a soldier aimed and fired a shot that hit Hanan in her lower torso. At first soldiers did not want to take her to hospital, but later did. She died the following day after an operation. 
According to Amnesty International Hanan's death is one of 37 deaths of civilians killed by British forces.
No proper investigation was carried out into this killing which the British Ministry of Defence described as "an unfortunate casualty of war."



5.  Testimony of Margaret Nash

Derry 1973, Thomas Friel, 22

On the evening of 17 May 1973, my brother Thomas Friel, aged 22, left the Telstar Bar with his brother Seamus. Approximately six soldiers from B Company, 3rd Battalion, the Royal Anglian Regiment set upon them. 
The soldiers fired two rubber bullets at Thomas and Seamus from a close range. One of the bullets struck Thomas. As Seamus was helping Thomas to safety, the soldiers continued to fire rubber bullets at them. Thomas died in hospital on 22 May 1973. 
No proper investigation was carried out by the RUC. The soldiers' version of events went unchallenged because their statements were taken by the Royal Military Police. No soldier was ever prosecuted with his death.

Basra 2003, Hassan Hameed Naser

On 9 August 2003 Hassan Hameed Naser, an unemployed single man, was shot dead by a soldier from B Company, 1st Battalion, the King's Regiment. Hassan was among a group of demonstrators who had gathered to protest about the lack of fuel in the city of Basra. The victim's brother, who witnessed the shooting, told Amnesty International that the soldier fired randomly into the crowd. 
No investigation was conducted into the killing.


6.  Testimony of Peter McBride (Snr)

Belfast 1992, Peter McBride

On 4 September 1992 my son, Peter McBride, aged 18 and the father of two daughters, was stopped by a foot patrol of the Scots Guards, a regiment of the British Army. After an identity check and a thorough body search, Peter ran from the patrol and was chased by the soldiers. A witness heard the words "shoot the bastard". Two soldiers, Guardsman Mark Wright and Jim Fisher shot at him, hitting him twice in the back. Peter stumbled towards the back entry behind his sister's house, where he collapsed and died.
The two soldiers were convicted of his murder, however, they remain in the British army and have recently served in Basra. 
General Mike Jackson and John Spellar sat on the Army Board that decided that the murder of Peter was not a serious enough offence to warrant dismissal.

Basra 2003, Baha Mousa, 26

Baha Mousa, a 26 year old hotel receptionist from Basra and the father of two boys was tortured and beaten to death by soldiers from the Queen' Lancashire Regiment.
Baha was arrested from the hotel where he worked on 14 September 2003. He was taken to a British military base. One of his fellow workers who was also arrested said that Baha was tied and hooded and then repeatedly kicked and assaulted by the British troops, begging all the while to have the hood removed because he could no longer breathe. Baha was strangled to death four days after his arrest.
Two British soldiers arrested in connection with this killing were released without charge. 
His father is infuriated by the way the British army has treated Baha's death. He said, "if these men have no punishment, they will do this again".


Between April and September last year at least 6 other people died in British military custody in Iraq.



7.  Testimony of Karen Brady

Derry 1972, Daniel Hegarty, 15

My uncle, Daniel Hegarty, aged 15, was shot and killed on the morning of Operation Motorman, 31 July 1972. Daniel and his cousins, Christopher and Thomas went out for a walk because they wanted to see the Centurion tanks. As they walked along Creggan Heights, soldiers opened fire on the boys at close range with a General Purpose Machine Gun. Christopher was wounded and Daniel died from two gunshot wounds to the head. He was shot by soldier 'B' of A Company, 1st Battalion, the Royal Scots Guards.
The soldiers claimed that three boys were armed. However, the soldiers made no attempt to arrest the three and left the scene immediately.
There was no RUC investigation and the RUC map of the scene of the killing was deliberately falsified. The soldiers' version of events went unchallenged because their statements were taken by the Royal Military Police. 
No soldier was ever prosecuted with his killing.

Basra 2003, Kasber Farhoud Jasmin

On 3 June 2003 Kasber Farhoud Jamin, was fishing with a small group in southern Iraq when he was shot in the head by a passing British military river patrol. His brother who was with him in the boat said they were gathering in their net when the patrol approached. "Abruptly he fell in to the river. I shouted at him but there was no response."
Using lanterns the rest of the fishermen searched for the young man in the river and eventually pulled him from the water. He had a bullet wound to the head.
The Ministry of Defence has not accepted liability for his death. There was no investigation.



8.  Testimony of May McGavigan

Derry 1971, Annette McGavigan, 14

On 6 September 1971 my sister, Annette McGavigan, was shot and killed by British army troops. The identity of the regiment and the soldier who shot Annette has never been confirmed. All that is known is that soldier 'B' and soldier 'C' opened fire during the incident.
There was rioting going on in and around the Little Diamond, at the edge of the Bogside. British soldiers were positioned in the grounds of the old post office. During the rioting, two nail bombs were thrown at the soldiers. They replied by opening fire into a crowd of young people, mainly girls. Annette was in the crowd; she was hit by a bullet in the back of the head and died instantly.
The soldiers claimed that there was a gun battle, eyewitnesses refuted this.
There is no evidence of a proper investigation by the RUC into her death. The soldiers' version of events went unchallenged because their statements were taken by the Royal Military Police. No soldiers have ever been prosecuted with her killing. 
Annette was 14 years old.

Basra 2003, Jaafer Hashim Majeed, 13

Jaafer Hashim Majeed, aged 13, was playing in the street outside his home when he came across an unexploded cluster bomb. As his father looked on, the bomb exploded, injuring the 13-year-old so severely that he died before arriving at the hospital.

The arms manufacturer Raytheon makes these cluster bombs. The cluster bomb was one of thousands dropped on Iraq by British and American forces. 
The Ministry of Defence has not accepted liability for his death.



9.  Testimony of Tina Duffy

Derry 1978, Patsy Duffy, 50

On 24 November 1978 my father, Patsy Duffy, was shot dead by undercover British soldiers.
My father entered a house on Maureen Avenue that was being used by the IRA to keep weapons. My father went to the house to inspect these weapons, which were locked in a wardrobe in an upstairs room. The house was being staked-out by undercover British soldiers - the SAS. The SAS had been in the house for two days. 
As soon as my father entered the upstairs room the soldiers opened fire; he was hit by 14 bullets. The soldiers claimed that they fired at him from outside the room. 
However, the forensic evidence states that he had been shot in the chest at close range by two bullets. All the other shots were fired from behind.
The wardrobe where the weapons were kept was locked when the police arrived at the scene and my father was unarmed. 
My father could have been arrested instead of being executed. He was unarmed and did not pose a threat to anyone.
There was no proper investigation by the RUC and no soldier was ever prosecuted with his killing.

Basra 2003, Walid Fayay Mazban, 42

Walid Fayay Mazban, a 42 year old driver was shot dead on 24 August 2003 at a temporary checkpoint in Basra by a soldier from the 1st Battalion, the Kings Regiment. He was the sole breadwinner for his wife, two children and two parents.
As Walid drove his minibus through a crossroads where the British soldiers were staffing a temporary checkpoint, he was fired on from behind. He sustained multiple bullet injuries in his lower back. Following the shooting he was taken to hospital, where he died the next day. 
Nothing suspicious was found when the vehicle was searched. 
The family was told in January 2004 that an investigation had been launched into the killing. 
Investigations into the incidents involving British troops are conducted by the Royal Military Police.



10.  Testimony of John Kelly, brother of Michael Kelly, murdered by British paratroopers on Bloody Sunday

Derry, Bloody Sunday 31 January 1972

On 30 January 1972, in Derry, members of the British Army's Parachute Regiment opened fire on marchers demonstrating for civil rights. 14 innocent civilians were killed and a further 13 were injured by gunfire. 
No one was charged with the killings. The British judiciary colluded with the army and local police to prevent the truth of the event from emerging for more than 30 years. 
After years of campaigning, the families of the dead forced the British Government into establishing a second public inquiry into the killings. 
That inquiry is still ongoing since 1998.

Falluja, 29 April 2003

On 29 April 2003 US Army paratroopers from 82nd Airborne Division killed 13 demonstrators and injured 75 more on the streets of Falluja. The demonstrators were unarmed. They had gone to a local school that had been occupied by US forces to ask them to leave. It was a peaceful protest and no one was armed. The demonstrators stated that they had been attacked without provocation and that the US soldiers had fired excessively and indiscriminately. 
The paratroopers claimed that they opened fire in self-defence after being shot at by armed civilians. Civilian witnesses state that there was no gunfight. Evidence at the scene supports the civilian witnesses' version of events.
The massacre at Falluja marked a turning point and directly contributed to the growing uprising against the US and British occupation.