Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Legal history in Belfast

Family members of the Omagh bomb victims made legal history yesterday when they successfully sued those responsible for the atrocity. After the failure of the authorities north and south to convict anyone of a criminal offence for the massacre of 31 people in 1998 the family members decided to go it alone and take a civil case against the members of the Real IRA who were behind it. Four of the men thought responsible were sued for damages to the amount of £1.6 million. They will have to pay up or face prison. However as Michael Gallagher, whose 21 year old son was murdered that day, passionately explained outside the court in Belfast yesterday, this was never about money. It was about identifying publicly on the record that those four men are the ones who planted the bomb that day as a perverted way of expressing their opposition to the Good Friday Agreement.
Family members of Omagh bomb victims celebrate the result out side the High court in Belfast yesterday.

As I understand it, in a civil law suit such as this the verdict does not determine the guilt or innocence of the accused. However this ruling does identify those responsible for the bomb, largely thanks to evidence supplied by undercover FBI agent David Rupert who successfully infiltrated the Real IRA in the years after the bombing. Although the evidence supplied is not enough to allow for a criminal conviction it does find that these four men were liable for the attack. The burden of proof in a civil case comes down to the "balance of probabilities" as opposed to "beyond reasonable doubt" which is required in a criminal case. Because the burden of proof is much lower in a civil case it allowed the judge to find the defendants in the Real IRA liable for damages. I'm not quite sure how they pulled this off but suing a terrorist organisation, what a stroke of genius.

There was a legal precedent set in Belfast yesterday. Who knows where it might lead. As the ferociously determined Michael Gallagher said yesterday, "we have sent out an important message to terrorists and their victims around the world - you now have a way of challenging those who've murdered your loved ones". Might we see Israeli victims of Hamas or hezbollah terrorism suing those organisations. Could this tactic be replicated throughout the world from Spain to Colombia ? At very least, it opens up the possibility.


Anonymous said...

"The greatest generation" - Get over it. Yes on a personal level each man was heroic, on both sides, but come on, for how long do we have to be reminded?

Ever watched the Pentagon channel?
They seem to portray current American GIs in the same boat as those who fought during WWII.

WWII souls are turning in their unmarked graves as a result.

Ted Leddy said...

I love it Aido man.

Now you got beef with World War Two vets.

I do enjoy your gripes.

Anonymous said...

I have gripes with my own gripes.
I just ranted a bit there. I was in Sardinia and the only English channel I could get was the Pentagon Channel.

I can see how American youths and soldiers are brainwashed with the garbage that channels like these spew. Honestly. I sat there and watched it in a fit of rage.