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CPIR Statement: Deformed Justice from Two Deformed States

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Statement of the Communist Party of the Irish Republic: Deformed Justice from Two Deformed States

 

Last week yet another miscarriage of justice in the war in Ireland was exposed. Brian Shivers' unjust conviction in respect of the killing of two British soldiers was overturned. It appears that the initial judge, sitting without a jury, had not identified one single criminal act that Mr Shivers had committed. Regardless of this most simple legal requirement, the judge had determined that Shivers should spend the rest of his life in jail.

 

However, rather than show any remorse for the injustice which was done, the British legal system then refused a bail application. This in itself would not be unusual, but Shivers who suffers from Cystic Fibrosis was released by a judge while waiting for his original trial and had complied with bail conditions for three years without posing any risk of flight.

 

These kind of decisions are common in the deformed state that calls itself Northern Ireland. It is a regular occurrence for Irish Republicans to be arrested and charged for so-called "terrorist" offences with no evidence ever produced before a court. In nearly all of those cases where the Republicans defendants have contested the charges, they have been acquitted, often in circumstances where the prosecution offerss no evidence, or where a judge directs that the evidence offered is so pitiful that there is not even a case to answer.

 

Despite the remarkably low conviction rate, it is also rare for Republicans to be granted bail by the courts. The combination of charging young men and women who it is clear will never be convicted, and the decision to refuse them bail, amounts to a form of internment, internment by remand. This internment regularly lasts more than a year, and has on occasion exceeded three years. Years of lives which cannot be replaced. Perhaps even more remarkable than this blatant abuse of process, is that national and international human rights groups have said virtually nothing about it.

 

And where this system of internment by remand is not able to garner even the minimum of suspicion that a Republican has broken British law, the Secretary of State retains the power to imprison them directly without charge. Martin Corey was detained in this manner in April 2010, Marion Price in May 2011. Both remain detained without charge and without being provided with any evidence to justify their detention.

 

While convictions or even formal charges are apparently not required by the British state to lock up Republicans, two other notable convictions did occur in 2012. These convictions too, like that of Brian Shivers, are being appealed. John Paul Wooton and Brendan McConville were convicted in circumstances that so clearly resonated with past examples of British injustice that Gerry Conlon, who lost so many years of his life in similar circumstances, has called for their release. The campaign for the Craigavon Two is gaining momentum and all those with a concern for miscarriage of justice should get behind it.

 

Some Republicans like to blame "political policing" for all of this, but this is only one part of the problem. For political policing to turn into internment and injustice, you need a political prosecution service and political judges. The British judicial system has never been short of any of these. The problem has always been the deformed British state in the north. A deformed state will always lead to deformed justice.

 

But even where the British political system is supposed to be removed, its injustice continues unabated. The Free State that was created to look after British and Irish capitalist interests is in many ways more deformed than its northern equivalent. The word of a Garda Superintendent is enough to secure a conviction of membership of the IRA. No jury would consider this to be a reasonable way to conduct a fair trial. That doesn't matter because just like in the north, trials of political prisoners are held without a jury. Political policing, political prosecution and political judges are as active in Dublin as they are in Belfast.

 

Nearly everyone in the 26 Counties recognises that they also live in a deformed state, that the politicians who govern and the bankers who rule do not represent the Irish people. Many fail however to draw the obvious comparison with the deformed northern state. Civil rights organisations in Dublin and political groups on the Left are muted in their criticism of the "Special Criminal Court" in the same way that they fail to tackle issues relating to the occupied north east, while many in the north are simply unaware of the southern version of Diplock courts.

 

The nature of the deformity is clear. Partition has divided our nation into two deformed states. In such circumstances deformed justice north and south is inevitable.

 

 

Páirtí Cummanch na Poblachta

Communist Party of the Irish Republic

21ú Eanáir 2013

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