On 30 January 1972, in Derry, Northern Ireland, the First Battalion of the Parachute Regiment of the British Army (1 PARA) shot twenty-six unarmed civil rights protesters. Thirteen males, seven of who were teenagers, died immediately. Another man died four and a half months later from injuries received. Five of those wounded were shot in the back.
The British Government has conducted two investigations. First, immediately following the events, the “Widgery Tribunal” conducted an investigation. The tribunal effectively cleared the British soldiers and authorities of blame. However, the report was heavily criticized and described as a “whitewash.” Second, in 1998, “The Saville Inquiry” was established to re-examine “Bloody Sunday.” On June 15, 2010, Saville’s report was published and concluded that “the firing by soldiers of 1 PARA on Bloody Sunday caused the deaths of 13 people and injury to a similar number, none of whom was posing a threat of causing death or serious injury.” Following publication, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, made a formal apology on behalf of the United Kingdom.
Following publication of the “The Saville Inquiry” into the events of “Bloody Sunday,” there is an ongoing debate as to whether the soldiers involved should be prosecuted. However, a number of problems exist. For example, the evidence is 38 years old and a great deal will depend on whether the evidence has survived, perished, or disappeared. Further, the age and reliability of the witnesses may be a problem. Also, the defendants charged could argue that they would not receive a fair trial due to the passage of time. In addition, the witnesses who gave evidence to the “Saville Inquiry” were given immunity from prosecution arising from self-incrimination. However, the immunity from prosecution arising from self-incrimination does not cover false testimony. Saville concluded that some British paratroopers “knowingly put forward false accounts.” Thus, the possibility of prosecutions for perjury arises. However, is prosecution desirable following the “Good Friday Agreement” and the “Peace Process” in Northern Ireland? Would a monetary remedy be acceptable to the families? Would a more formal apology be more suffice?