22 July 2006

Anniversary of the Police Murder of De Menezes

Today is the anniversary of the police shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, an innocent Brazilian who was inexplicably shot in the head, repeatedly, at close range by armed officers. Today, we still don't know the full story of what happened.

But the Crown Prosection Service thinks the case is fairly simple. They have charged the Met with "failing to provide for the heath, safety and welfare of Jean Charles de Menezes". It is a distinctly unsatisfactory ruling. De Menezes was an innocent civilian going about his business. He was shot and killed, deliberately, by police officers.

Whatever the circumstances, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that what occurred this time last year amounts to state-murder. I say "state", because the police is fundamentally a state institution. The evidence available in the public record demonstrates that the shooting cannot be easily explained. I've reviewed this evidence in some detail in a special chapter on the murder of de Menezes in my book, The London Bombings: An Independent Inquiry. Yes, the police were on alert looking for suspected bombers. But reports show that surveillance officers had already informed their colleagues that de Menezes was a white, Caucasian male who thus didn't in anyway resemble Hussein Osman, who was involved in the 21st July 2005 failed bombings and who police were looking for at the time. Reports also confirm that officers didn't find his behaviour or conduct suspicious at all.

But he was still targeted, tracked, and eventually shot repeatedly in the head, by the long arm of the law. Police spokesman and media commentators keep referring to the guidelines under Operation Kratos, which were unilaterally implemented without public knowledge/consent in the first place, allowing police to shoot-to-kill on the basis of reasonable suspicion that an individual might be a suicide bomber. The guidelines are supposed to allow officers to take firm, quick and decisive action to prevent the possibility, or perceived probability, of greater loss of life.

But even Kratos cannot explain why armed officers, instead of apprehending de Menezes near the beginning of his journey, allowed him to travel by bus and board a tube train before grabbing him and pinning him down so he could be shot. Is that action endorsed by the Kratos guidelines? Afraid not. If de Menezes had ever truly been suspected as a suicide bomber, officers should not have risked detonating his device by manhandling him in this way before shooting him. Kratos instructs officers to shoot from afar precisely to avoid possible detonation.

Other reports suggest that the identification of de Menezes as a terrorist suspect had originated from hitherto unidentified senior officers responsible for coordinating the entire operation. What had prompted them to do so? Were they acting on false intelligence?

Grim echoes of the Stockwell murder reverberated in Forest Gate when police carried out an "anti-terror" raid in which they terrorised two families, one Muslim, one Hindu, this time shooting an innocent British citizen. We now know that the raid had been derived from intelligence based on a source whose credibility had been undermined and questioned.

These incidents of police terrorisation on the streets of Britain must be understood in the context of wider state-repression. We need only look, for example, at the extradition proceedings of British citizens to the United States, such as Babar Ahmed, where an innocent Briton can be detained in a high security prison even when British police have already conceded his innocence, on the basis of an unsubstantiated accusation from the American government.

We are watching as due process is being duly eroded, in the name of catching "terror suspects", a label that can be applied, and is indeed enforced, upon anybody on the basis of a mere "suspicion", regardless of whether or not it is based on any sort of evidence, let alone whether or not that evidence might stand in a court of law.

So let us remember and mourn the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes and stand in solidarity with his grieving family and friends, for his death is a sad reflection of a system of state-repression that is carefully shredding our most sacred liberties in the name of fighting The Long War.

1 comment:

  1. I followed this incident via the media here in Australia but due to my locale missed much of what must have been a lot of discussion in the general community about the incident. My assumption (and what I gathered from a couple of the deeper blogs) was always that the 'oops, sorry, we made several mistakes' explanation from some authorities was possibly covering up something more complicated, or nastier. In that light I'll be paying attention to the chapter in your new book when I read it Nafeez.

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