Euro Court spotlight on shoot to kill
BY LAURA FRIEL
The European Court of Human Rights has agreed to examine the cases of 12 nationalists and republicans shot dead in the Six Counties by state and pro state forces in disputed circumstances.
The ruling, handed down on Wednesday 5 April is a serious blow to the British government, which fought hard to prevent the cases being heard in the European Court, and indicts the British for not properly investigating the killings as required by the Human Rights Convention.
The cases, which involve four separate incidents, have been taken to Strasbourg by relatives of the dead men. The court heard details of the RUC shooting of unarmed IRA Volunteer Gervais McKerr in 1982, the SAS ambush of eight IRA Volunteers and one civilian in Loughgall in 1987, the RUC shooting of unarmed IRA Volunteer Pearse Jordan in 1992 and the loyalist shooting of Sinn Féin member Patrick Shanaghan in Castlederg in 1991.
d according to Mairéad Kelly, sister of IRA Volunteer Patrick Kelly, shot dead at Loughgall, the British policy of shoot-to-kill will now now be scrutinised in court: ``The Stalker/Sampson report into the six killings in Armagh in 1982 may also be examined in the European Court,'' she said. ``We believe the whole circumstances surrounding the shoot-to-kill policy will be exposed and that the cover up that has kept the truth from families will be opened up also.''
Lawyers acting on behalf of the families told the court that the killings involved allegations of crown force shoot to kill and collusion with loyalist death squads.
Sinn Féin's Bairbre de Brún described the ruling as a landmark decision. ``Gradually the layers of lies and cover up are peeled away and the British record of human rights violations exposed on the internatinal stage,'' she said. ``I congratulate the families for their persistance in searching for the truth.''
A large group of relatives, friends and supporters from as far away as America travelled to Strasbourg to attend the hearing. Amongst them was Patrick Shanaghan's 75-year-old mother, accompanied by his sister Mary. ``We are convinced that security services had something to do with Patrick's murder,'' said Mary. ``This is our last chance to find the truth.''
Roisin Kelly, the sister of Patrick Kelly killed in Loughgall, says amongst the many questions to which her family needs answers is this: If the SAS were able to stake out the barracks at Loughgall for over 17 hours prior to the shooting, why was no attempt made to arrest the IRA Volunteers? The inquest into her brother's death was a ``complete farce'' says Roisin. ``We feel the European court is the only place we'll get a fair hearing.''
Further information to back the families' fears that their loved ones were deliberately set up and ambushed by the SAS in Loughgall emerged in the media this week. Martin Ingram, a British Intelligence whistleblower and former member of the covert Force Research Unit (which ran agents and surveillance operations in the Six Counties) has claimed that the authorities had advance notice of the IRA's plan to attack Loughgall barracks. The information came from an electronic bugging device planted in the home of Gerard Harte, who was later also shot dead by the SAS in a separate incident.