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EDITIONS
Monday, 17 February, 2003, 19:46 GMT
Amnesty backs Deepcut inquiry call
The Royal Logistical Corps base, Deepcut.
The human rights' group is concerned at the deaths
Amnesty International is backing calls for a public inquiry into the mysterious deaths of four young soldiers at an army barracks.

The human rights' organisation wants to see a thorough examination of the circumstances both before and after the four recruits - including Cheryl James from Llangollen, north Wales - were shot dead at the Deepcut army barracks in Surrey.

We are concerned and who would not be with the deaths of these service people

Amnesty International spokesman

The army claims the four committed suicide but their families believe there may be a more sinister explanation.

Surrey Police have launched a new investigation into the deaths and this month a number of MPs, including Monmouthshire MP Lembit Opik, called for an independent judicial inquiry into the tragedies.

Amnesty International said it was concerned at the apparently explained deaths of the young service people as well as the wider issue of child soldiers - people under the age of 18 - being recruited to the armed services.

Two of the people who died at the Royal Logistical Corps base, Privates Geoff Gray, from Seaham, Co Durham, and James Collinson, from Perth, were 17.

Cheryl James
Cheryl James died in 1995

A third, Cheryl James, from Llangollen, north Wales, was 18, while Sean Benton, from Hastings, East Sussex was 20 when he died.

Amnesty spokesman Neil Durkin said: "We are concerned and who would not be with the deaths of these service people.

"We are part of a group of organisations that don't agree with under 18s being in the armed forces at all.

"We think they are, in fact, children, and should not be taking part in live-fire exercises or any other exercises of that sort.

"It really points up what has been a concern for us for some time - child soldiers, and it is a concern for us in our own back yard.

Actions

"We don't think it's right to deploy under 18s in combat situations, which they have been doing until recently.

"They should only recruit 18s and over."

Cheryl James' father, Des, has welcomed the human rights' organisation's support and re-iterated his call for the army to explain its actions in the days following his daughter's death, whose inquest recorded an open verdict.

He said: "We are of course delighted that an organisation with the international recognition of Amnesty International should choose to support our call for a public inquiry into the tragic deaths of four young people at the Deepcut army camp.

"The recognition of our cause by Amnesty should shame the army and the MoD who have persistently denied they have done anything wrong.

'Respect'

"The duplicity and arrogance of the MoD clearly has no boundaries.

"Only last week the MoD published their 'review of recruitment and training, within the armed services, and told the press it had nothing whatsoever to do with Deepcut.

"Indeed when the MoD announced the review on 28 October 2002, they also said then that it had nothing to do with the Deepcut situation, and the fact the families of the youngsters who died had a press conference at Westminster the very next day, was 'just a coincidence'.

"How much longer can this go on before the families are afforded some respect. We have lost our children - we should not be treated like this.

"We need to understand why the army, when faced with two deaths and five suicide attempts within 19 weeks in 1995, did not demand a thorough investigation was undertaken."

Review

"We need to understand why a public inquiry is not already planned."

The army initially insisted the deaths were "intentional and self-inflicted" but is co-operating fully with the police investigation.

The Deepcut base is included in a list of those that might lose out in an MoD review aimed at "rationalising" training - including the possibility of involving the private sector.

The government has said there has not been "any kind of cover-up" over the deaths.


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More from north east Wales
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04 Feb 03 | Wales
04 Feb 03 | Scotland
07 Dec 02 | England
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