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Report Of An International Fact Finding Delegation To County Mayo
Thu 5 Jul 2007 05:36 pm filed by the Editor - Ireland
An international delegation of human rights and environmental justice investigators has completed a visit to County Mayo at the request of a number of local residents concerned with public safety, environmental impacts, free speech and human rights issues arising from a gas pipeline and on-shore refinery project being constructed by Royal Dutch Shell and its partners.
The delegation toured the area of the pipeline and refinery projects, held a public hearing with a court reporter in order to take testimony and spoke individually with members of the community, Gardai (police), and media about the issues of concern. The delegation requested meetings with the Gardai Superintendent in Belmullet and with the Mayo County Council, but these requests were rejected.
Over a period of 30 days after the visit, the delegation received many additional submissions of e-mails, letters, video footage and other evidence of activities mostly related to protests at the site of the construction of the on-shore refinery in Ballinboy. This report does not take a position against or in favor of the gas pipeline and refinery project. Neither does it review the activities of the oil companies involved. The report is limited to the relations between the local community and the Gardai.
The delegation reviewed all the evidence submitted to us and reached the following conclusions:
1. A large number of local residents have engaged in peaceful protest activities against the gas pipeline and refinery project. Some of the activities involved actions of civil disobedience, such as road blockades. A few residents have indicated that they do not agree with the protest activities.
2. The behavior of many police on various occasions implies that either they were not trained in the necessary skills needed to manage peaceful demonstrations and civil disobedience actions, maintain order and protect the rights of free speech, or that they are not utilizing training if they have had it. Police undertaking their duties in terms of monitoring the protestors or protecting the site did not follow basic procedures such as displaying their identifications – badge and/or names and warning protesters before taking (physical) measures.
3. Protestors were followed and confronted by Gardai when they were about the community on their private matters. Gardai have appeared in plain clothes at public anti-pipeline events, resulting in other people present feeling intimidated.
4. The community has been active in submitting complaints to the necessary authorities about the issues they have with the Gardai, but to our knowledge none of these cases have been taken forward. Thus people have lost faith in the system, and have stopped submitting complaints.
5. There is evidence of excessive physical force by Gardai against peaceful protestors who were prepared to be arrested, which resulted in serious injury.
6. Some protestors have been prepared to be arrested in order to make a political statement within their rights of free speech, but Gardai have publicly said and practiced a policy of refusal to arrest peaceful protestors.
7. Several members of the general population, beyond the protestors, have indicated that they have lost respect for the Gardai as a consequence of the violence around the Shell facility protests.
8. There is evidence of the Gardai verbally threatening people without cause, which appeared to incite violence rather than diffuse it.
9. With a small population in rural Western Ireland the large Gardai presence of up to 200 people has caused an extremely sensitive atmosphere, which threatens the culture and values of the region.
10. There is evidence from videos of youth, women and the elderly being pushed and beaten by Gardai without provocation. Even high ranking officers were personally involved in beating up protestors.
11. Emergency response and medical treatment to injured protestors was denied and delayed by Gardai without justification.
OBSERVATIONS AND EVIDENCE
The delegation has made the following observations based on the evidence we received. This evidence comprises oral testimony, written submissions, observation, video, photographs and interviews. This is not a scientific study – it is a report based on the evidence we collated. We have focused on the following key findings.
The situation in County Mayo arising from the Royal Dutch Shell pipeline and on-shore refinery has already resulted in serious injury,loss of trust in the rule of law and the Gardai and disruption to the culture and values of the area. No outside intervention by the European Union or World Human Rights protection entities has occurred to remedy the situation. This lack of action and appropriate response threatens to create an even more explosive situation.
We recommend the following:
1) Global organizations specializing in human rights investigations, should further investigate this crisis.
2) Appropriate legal action should be immediately taken by such entities with the resources to fully prosecute any violations of human rights and international agreements.
3) The to-be-installed Ombudsman should take up the already filed complaints against Gardai behavior and swiftly and thoroughly deal with them in order to restore confidence among the local community.
4) The local and national authorities of the Irish government must immediately recognize that the situation in County Mayo could result in further serious injury to protestors, the public and members of the Gardai. Action should be taken to restore order and peace to the region through the intervention of neutral third parties.
EVIDENCE USED IN THE REPORT
The delegation has made available as part of its enquiry the full transcript of a public hearing as documented by a licensed court reporter at http://gcmonitor.org/article.php?id=576. In addition the submissions made to the enquiry have been catalogued and a summary is available at www.foe.co.uk/resource/evidence/ireland_submissions
Participants to the delegation were:
1) Denny Larson, Global Community Monitor www.gcmonitor.org
2) Hannah Griffiths, Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland www.foe.co.uk
3) Hanna Jongepier, Milieudefensie, Friends of the Earth Netherlands www.milieudefensie.nl
4) Bobby Peek, GroundWork South Africa www.groundwork.org.za)
5) Paul de Clerck, Friends of the Earth International www.foei.org
(Download the full report at www.gcmonitor.org)
Related item: http://www.indymedia.ie/article/83371