LONDONDERRY, Northern Ireland — An international panel of judges charged with investigating "Bloody Sunday" surveyed the site Friday where British soldiers killed 13 Catholic demonstrators in 1972.
Lord Mark Saville and his deputies from Canada and New Zealand, William Hoyt and Sir Edward Somers, toured the Catholic Bogside district here after pledging "fairness, thoroughness and impartiality" in their probe. The three men even posed in front of a mural declaring: "War or Peace? Britain has the choice."
A 1972 investigation by England's senior judge infuriated Catholics. The judge, Lord John Passmore Widgery, said the soldiers' shooting was justified on the grounds that they came under sustained fire by Irish Republican Army gunmen. He decided that some of those killed were armed, although no weapons were recovered and no soldiers were injured.
Prime Minister Tony Blair authorized the new inquiry in January in response to a relentless campaign by relatives of the dead.
Saville said in an opening statement that he will seek access to all evidence and all witnesses who could help investigators determine the truth. He said secret government documents might be introduced in the public hearings.
The panel hopes to hear testimony from British politicians and former soldiers this fall in London. Saville noted that granting immunity from prosecution for murder might be necessary "to encourage people to come forward and speak frankly."
Eamonn McCann, who witnessed Bloody Sunday, said the participation of the Canadian and New Zealand jurists was crucial. "It builds confidence for people in Derry that the tribunal is not headed solely by an English judge," he said. "But we're still wary."
Earlier Friday, survivors and relatives of the Bloody Sunday dead staged a symbolic march from the spot where soldiers blocked their way in 1972.
"If the original march had got to the Guildhall, as it should have done, there would have been no murder in Derry that day," said John Kelly, whose brother was among those slain.