Bloody Sunday report: the victims were innocent June 16, 2010Posted by mwahlstrom in protest policing, State crime.
The Saville report, where the events in Derry on Sunday 30th January 1972 are scrutinized in detail, is finally finished. It is now an official truth even in Britain that the soldiers killed 13 innocent people (or actually 14 if we count one who later died from his wounds).
The question is now whether any of the soldiers that took part in the massacre should be brought to justice, 38 years later. Arguably, this is neither very likely, nor would it necessarily be a good idea. Even if no one can escape from individual moral responsibility for ones actions, we must consider the contextual factors that made these crimes possible, and there is a risk of forgetting those higher up in the chain of command when the foot soldiers become scapegoats. The Saville report explicitly states that its focus is on the specific situation and not on the bigger picture, and thereby also makes it difficult to lay blame on anyone not directly invloved. I tend to agree with The Guardian’s Bernadette Devlin McAliskey when she states in a commentary:
Bloody Sunday isn’t just about the families or how the 13 individuals lost their lives that day; the 14th dying later of his wounds. It is about whether the British government committed a war crime in 1972 and in so doing started a war. It is the British government, not their anonymous and brutalised soldiers of their alphabet army who should be in the dock, at the international court of justice at The Hague. If Saville has closed that route to truth and justice, the British government will consider it worth every penny.
Had the British state been speedily held to account at The Hague, things might have been different for a lot of people, not least for nine Turkish human rights activists on their way to Gaza. They might not have been so confidently slaughtered by the state of Israel.
Still, as an academic I cannot help but noting that the report is an impressive document, and could be a goldmine for students interested in investigating this type of events. For better or worse, it appears that Lord Saville left theoretically driven analyses aside for others to pursue. We should take the chance to do so!