New inquiry into alleged assault urged

Tue, Apr 27, 2010, 01:00

AN INDEPENDENT report for the Frontline human rights organisation recommends that gardaí from outside Mayo carry out a new investigation into the alleged assault on Rossport farmer Willie Corduff (56) a year ago at the Corrib gas pipe landfall at Glengad.

The analysis by barrister Brian Barrington of a number of incidents relating to the Corrib gas dispute is critical of Shell, the Garda, I-RMS security, which is employed by Shell, the Department of Energy and a minority of protesters.

The report, to be released today, publishes medical records and an independent medical assessment that dispute claims by Shell’s security contractor that “not a finger” was laid on Mr Corduff on April 23rd, 2009.

It finds that residents protesting peacefully on health and safety grounds about the gas project have the right to be described as “human rights defenders” under United Nations guidelines.

The Frontline international foundation for the protection of human rights defenders, which was founded in Dublin in 2001 and is supported by Irish Aid, commissioned the report after several requests from protesters against the project and others.

The first in a series of violent clashes between protesters, including residents, and gardaí occurred after Shell resumed work on the Corrib gas terminal in September 2006. .

Frontline had sent a small delegation of observers to monitor protests in north Mayo in 2006 and found it could not respond in an ad-hoc way to the escalation of incidents in the following two years.

It commissioned research from Mr Barrington, who has extensive experience relating to policing and human rights work in Northern Ireland. His remit was to examine whether those engaged in protests could be considered to be human rights defenders and to ascertain whether or not there were legitimate human rights concerns about the policing of the dispute.

Mr Barrington’s review focuses on incidents ranging from the alleged assault on Mr Corduff last year to the sinking of fisherman Pat O’Donnell’s boat, the surveillance and monitoring of protesters and the response to breaches of regulations by the developers. He also examined claims of intimidation of Shell contract staff and allegations of republican involvement in the Corrib gas protests.

In the analysis of the alleged assault on Mr Corduff, Mr Barrington obtained hospital records which state Mr Corduff had “been kicked all over the body” and experienced loss of consciousness, headaches, nausea and vomiting.

All X-rays and a CT brain scan proved normal and he was discharged the following day.

Mr Corduff, who was jailed in 2005 over his opposition to the Corrib gas pipeline and received the Goldman international environmental award in 2007, was taken to hospital early on April 24th, 2009. The previous day, he had crawled under a truck at Glengad to protest over what he regarded as unauthorised work by Shell contractors at the Corrib gas landfall.

Mr Barrington sought the opinion of Dr John Good on the medical reports. Dr Good has worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross and regularly assesses asylum seekers who have made claims of assault or torture.

He found that Mr Corduff’s injuries were “totally consistent with a history of assault”. HSE West refused his request to interview the ambulance drivers on duty.

Mr Barrington is critical of the subsequent handling of the Garda investigation into the alleged assault on Mr Corduff and he recommends it be investigated anew by gardaí from outside Mayo.

** The DPP has decided there are no grounds for a criminal prosecution arising from allegations that masked men beat Mr Corduff during a protest in Co Mayo in April 2009, Conor Lally writes.

Mr Corduff was taken to Mayo General Hospital in Castlebar. He claimed he was dragged from under a truck by at least six men dressed in black and wearing balaclavas who beat him about the head and knees.