On The Runs

Statement from RFJ Director Mark Thompson
Thursday 27th February 2003

“On The Runs” Debate needs to be broadened

‘The current debate around particular actions during the conflict
regarding those described as ‘on the runs’ (OTR’s) is in danger of
creating a singular focus and thus inadvertently denying the experience
of victims of other protagonists to the conflict. In this debate one
would be forgiven for thinking that the only victims of the conflict
with an absence of due process were the victims of republican OTR’s. In
fact many of those described as OTR’s were sentenced in their absence
unlike those involved in British state violence who through a series of
legislative measures evaded investigation, prosecution and conviction.

‘Thousands of relatives affected by British state violence watch these
events debated and unfold on a daily basis in the media without
reference to their experience. An experience that does not even
register on the political agenda, and by virtue renders their loss
somewhat less.

‘British forces have been responsible for the deaths of 357 people, the
majority civilians, the vast majority killed when unarmed. 75 of those
killed were children. Four serving members of the British army spent a
total of just over 14-years relating to three of these killings. All
were subsequently released significantly early into their sentences and
reinstated back to their regiments. Two were promoted. A comparative
figure saw 15,000 republicans spend a collective of over 100,000 years
in jail.

‘On Wednesday these same bereaved and injured also had to listen the
spectacle of former ‘Lord Chief Justice’ Carswell tell an audience,
including the British Monarch, of how the courts had operated with
‘impartiality’ over thirty-years. The same courts, under his tenure,
that played a vital and all too familiar role in covering-up the facts
involving killings by British crown forces and failing to operate in
accordance with international judicial standards. In a word assisting
in the provision of impunity.

‘A true and genuine search for the facts concerning all actions of the
conflict is the only legitimate way forward, not a process that
continues to apportion guilt and blame in the interest of political
capital. Attempts to bring about a fully inclusive and even handed
approach to the vexed issue of our collective past must at its core
recognise all of our experiences, including universal culpability.
Those who choose a selective approach expose a lack of genuine and real
concern not only for victims, but for our collective future.’