Relatives for Justice have launched an online petition of support for the family of Jean Charles de Menezes, shot dead by the London Metropolitan police.

This initiative has come from families who themselves lost loved ones to Britain's policy of shoot-to-kill who wish to show their solidarity and support for the de Menezes family.

What follows is a brief account of the use of the shoot-to-kill policy in the Irish conflict, with case examples.

To sign or view the petition, please visit

"Shoot-To-Kill" is a covert strategy of assassination of targeted unarmed Republican supporters, of active or inactive IRA personnel, or the killing of combatants without the chance of surrender or during the act of surrender, in other words, "summary execution".

As a result of this policy, over 300 individuals, more than half civilians unassociated with the IRA or the broader republican movement, have been killed by British crown forces in the North since 1969.

The failure to prosecute soldiers for the slaughter of 14 unarmed, innocent civil rights marchers in Derry on Bloody Sunday in 1972 set the stage for future murders of civilians by British military and marked a watershed in the Nationalist community's attitude to the assorted military forces of the British crown.

The "shoot-to-kill" policy is the result of this indulgent attitude of the courts toward the murder of Irish nationalists or republicans.

Of all these cases of 'suspicious' killings by British soldiers or RUC, few have gotten to the courts. From 1972 to 1987, only 17 trials against British military personnel took place for the murder of Irish people. Only two were found guilty. One was sentenced to 12 months detention in a Young Offenders Centre, suspended for 2 years. The other, Pvt. Ian Thain, was sentenced to life imprisonment but was released after little more than 2 years and immediately reinstated to his former regiment!

In 1994, another British army private, Lee Clegg, was convicted of the murder of a teenage, Catholic girl in West Belfast. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, after an army cover-up failed to obscure the truth of the "shoot-to-kill" nature of the killing.

Like Pvt. Thain before him, Pvt. Clegg was released from prison after serving only two years of his life sentence, returned to the British army, and given a promotion to boot.

Between late 1977 and late 1978, the number of selective assassination increased dramatically as 10 people were murdered by crown forces in covert operation. It was, however, the success of Provisional Sinn Fein in the October 1982 assembly elections that led to the full unleashing of shoot-to-kill operations against the nationalist community. Between 1982 and 1985, 35 people were killed by crown forces, 23 of them in covert operations. Only one of those 23 was not a known or suspected Republican activist. The lack of accountability for these killings shows that British military forces in Ireland have, to a large degree, been granted the power to decide the guilt or innocence of suspected Republican activists without recourse to the courts.

On November 11, 1982, Gervais McKerr, Eugene Toman, Sean Burns were driving in Lurgan when an RUC patrol opened fire, killing all three. All were unarmed. It was claimed that the men had driven through a police roadblock and refused to stop. The RUC opened fire on the car and claimed that fire was returned. The car then came to a halt. The RUC officers said they heard the sound of a gun being cocked and they opened fire again. Toman was found lying out of the car with bullet wounds in his back. The officers had fired 109 bullets into the car. They were not just RUC men, but members of a British army trained Special Support Unit.

These officers originally claimed to be part of an ordinary RUC patrol and did not disclose that three dead men were under surveillance and stalked for some time. They changed their story when they were re-interviewed and the restrictions of the Official Secrets Act waived.

Justice Gibson held that this RUC special unit acted in "self-defense" and had used reasonable force in attempting to effect an arrest -- 109 rounds fired into unarmed men!

He stated that the prosecution never had "the slightest chance of sustaining a conviction" and then commended the RUC men for their "courage and determination in bringing the three deceased men to justice; in this case, to the final court of justice."

Urgent Appeal

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© 2005 Irish Republican News