Questions, Questions

August 16, 2005 at 12:02am By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

Jean Charles de Menezes was killed by London police shortly after the second (botched) tube bombings last month. The police say it was a reasonable mistake. de Menezes was wearing a light jacket, not the heavy, weather-inappropriate jacket initially claimed by witnesses; he didn’t jump the turnstile, he entered the tube legally and calmly; he wasn’t wearing a belt with wires protruding, he didn’t have his electrician’s belt with him that day; he was shot in the head, seven times, after having been pinned to the ground; and none of this was caught on any of the several cameras in the area because, by freak coincidence, they were all out of order. The Observer asks many relevant questions including, why did plainclothes officers shoot young Jean Charles de Menezes seven times in the head, thinking he posed a terror threat?

Somebody has some ‘splainin’ to do.

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Mr. T August 16, 2005 at 1:52am

There is actually some legal precedent on this case, with eerie parallels. In McCann and Others v. the UK SAS troops and British intelligence in Gibraltar tracked the movement of 3 IRA operatives into Gibraltar who were believed to be planning to bomb a UK military site. After following them closely and attempting to make an arrest, SAS soldiers shot and killed all 3 operatives when they hestitated and were allegedly reaching for their jackets/bags - the soldiers thinking that they were reaching for weapons or a bomb detonator.

Well it turned out that none of them had such things on them at the time, although it was later found that one of them apparently had an explosive device in a car located somewhere else.

Before the European Court of Human Rights, the Court ended up excusing the acts of the soldiers themselves, believing that they were acting under the honest belief that the IRA members were reaching for weapons/bomb detonators. However, the Court found the UK in violation of the right to life provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights, because they had not taken adequate procedures to prevent the deaths from happening in the first place (ie they knew the 3 of them were IRA, tracked their travel to Gibraltar, but failed to arrest them when they could have done so in a non-violent environment).

Not exactly analogous, but an interesting precedent with some relevance. It will be interesting to see how the Court’s previous case law on the UK’s war against the IRA will resonate in the current age (notice how the IRA declared an end to armed violence days after the bombings?).

Keep in mind that the ECHR allows nations to derogate from some of its human rights obligations in “times of emergency” - but that the government act derogating from such obligations must tightly fit the nature of the emergency at hand and not violate those obligations any more than absolutely necessary (a somewhat parallel analysis in US scotus law would be the “strict scrutiny” employed in certain con law cases). See the A and Others; X and another v. Secretary of State for the Home Department case about the UK’s own version of Gitmo for an example of this analysis (ie Post Sept 11 emergency did exist, but prolonged holding of persons in detention exceeded what was absolutely necessary to address that emergency).

Mr. Wilson August 16, 2005 at 2:20pm

Thanks for the background, Mr. T. Good stuff. There are some interesting parallels in there, but like you said, it’s not a 1-to-1 match. For example, in this case the victim was not known to be a terrorist, he didn’t commit any suspicious acts, and he was shot and killed after having been taken down by police officers. Not to mention all of the lies the police have been caught in, and the fact that all of hte cameras that could corroborate any of this mysteriously were out of order.

I suspect the British courts will come to a reasonable—if not completely satisfactory—conclusion in this case. Just a hunch. Unfortunately, I can’t say that I have the same faith in our own Justice Department, our Congress, or many of our judges.

Mr. T August 17, 2005 at 1:06am

I agree with your latter thought. The courts of England and Wales are well-equipped and experienced to adjudicate this case domestically, and the UK has adapted almost verbatim the entire European Convention on Human Rights into its Human Rights Statute of 1998 (although they have been talking about making revisions due to the latest bombings - which is sort of moot since the Strasbourg Court has final power of review anyway).

Abe of Lincoln August 17, 2005 at 3:50am

Interesting post and comments. I haven’t been following after the initial reports, so I see I should do some more reading.

Even under the original storyline I was shocked that the police shot the guy after he was subdued.

Abe of Lincoln August 17, 2005 at 3:55am

By the way…

This page (and other post pages) doesn’t display correctly on Safari 1.3 (MacOS X.3). The tabs all pile up at the top left w/o the labels.

It looks fine in Firefox 1.06 for Mac.

Mr. Wilson August 17, 2005 at 4:21am

Thanks for the heads-up, Abe. I haven’t had a chance to test the site on Mac browsers yet. As you can tell, Lincolnite is a work-in-progress. My focus so far has been mainly on Firefox (Mozilla) and IE. I already knew I need to apply some voodoo to get things working in Opera; I guess I’ll need to add Safari to my list.

Oh, and welcome!

Abe of Lincoln August 17, 2005 at 6:15am

I have mainly Macs (one Win98 box). I can send you a screenshot, if it would help. I just checked with IE 5.2 for MacOS X, and it also looks flaky in a similar way to Safari. As I said before, Firefox looks fine.

For some reason, the preview function doesn’t work on Firefox or Safari or IE. Just a totally blank window.

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