British govt oppose human rights case at Lords

The family of an IRA man, shot dead in an RUC shoot-to-kill operation, have taken the fight to uncover the truth surrounding his death to the House of Lords.

Gervaise McKerr was one of three unarmed IRA men shot dead by the RUC near Lurgan on November 11 1982.

In 2001 the European Court of Human Rights ordered the British government to pay 10,000 pounds to the families of 12 men - including 10 IRA men - shot dead in controversial circumstances over a 10-year period.

The cases included that of Mr McKerr and the court ruled that investigations into the killings breached Article Two `the right to life' - of the European Convention of Human rights.

The McKerr family have nbeen forced to take further proceedings, first in the High Court and then in the Court of Appeal in Belfast, to force the British government and the Secretary of State to live up to their international obligations and their obligations under the Human Rights Act.

Now, on Monday and Tuesday this week, the House of Lords will be presented with the circumstances of Gervaise McKerr's killing.

Richie MacRitchie of Madden and Finucane Solicitors, who are representing the McKerr family said: ``Despite the ruling of the human rights court in Strasbourg nearly three years ago, the government have confirmed that they do not propose to carry out any further investigation into the circumstances of the McKerr case.

``The [British] government have continued to defend their position and have appealed to the House of Lords, arguing that they should not be obliged to investigate murders, committed by their own security forces, which occurred prior to October 2000, the date the Human Rights act came into effect.

``The outcome of the case will affect a number of other lethal force cases currently before the courts in Northern Ireland.''

Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith QC, acting on behalf of the British government, claimed it was ``impossible'' to complying, 21 years after the event, with the `right to life' provisions of human rights law. He claimed a ruling to re-open the case would mean the British government would be ``doomed'' to do something it could not do.

Upper Bann Sinn Féin Assembly member John O'Dowd has supported calls being made for a full independent inquiry into Shoot to Kill incidents in North Armagh in the 1980's.

Mr O'Dowd said:

``Gervaise McKerr was shot and killed by the RUC along with Eugene Toman and Sean Burns in November 1982. They were unarmed yet more than 100 rounds were fired into the car they were travelling in.

``Three years ago in a landmark legal victory the European Court demanded that a proper investigation into the circumstances of these killings and other state murders be carried out. The British government have repeatedly refused to give effect to this judgement.

``Because of this the McKerr family have been forced to go to the House of Lords. This is a test case and if successful will have serious repercussions for the British government.

``However it is a disgrace that the McKerr family have been forced into further legal action. The British government need to end their policy of concealment and need to face up to the legacy left by the policy of state sanctioned and state supported murder.''

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© 2004 Irish Republican News