De Menezes family lose European court battle

30th March 2016, Comments 0 comments

The family of a Brazilian shot dead by London police in 2005 after he was mistaken for a jihadist attacker lost their fight to have British officers prosecuted in Europe's top rights court on Wednesday.

Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead on July 22, 2005, two weeks after suicide bombings on London transport killed 52 people, and a day after unexploded bombs were found on three Underground trains and a bus.

His family has fought a long legal battle to have individual Metropolitan Police officers prosecuted for the killing, but the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the investigation had been properly carried out.

"The decision not to prosecute any individual officer was not due to any failings in the investigation or the State's tolerance of, or collusion in, unlawful acts," the Strasbourg-based court said in a ruling passed by 13 votes to four.

"Rather, it was due to the fact that, following a thorough investigation, a prosecutor had considered all the facts of the case and concluded that there was insufficient evidence against any individual officer to prosecute."

De Menezes, an electrician, was shot seven times in the head by police officers in a London Underground station.

With the capital on high alert, police mistook him for failed bomber Hussain Osman, who had attempted to plant explosives at one of the stations the day before, and who lived in the same block of flats as de Menezes.

"We find it unbelievable that our innocent cousin could be shot seven times in the head by the Metropolitan Police when he had done nothing wrong, and yet the police have not had to account for their actions," Patricia Armani Da Silva, de Menezes' cousin, told the BBC.

She has led the legal battle since other family members decided to draw a line under the tragedy several years ago.

"We feel that decisions about guilt and innocence should be made by juries, not by faceless bureaucrats, and we are deeply saddened that we have been denied that opportunity yet again," she added.

- Difficult to prove -

The killing provoked a series of inquiries that were heavily critical of police tactics, supervision and individual decisions.

But British prosecutors repeatedly decided not to bring a case against any individual officer, arguing that it would be too difficult to prove that they did not fear for their lives.

A government spokesperson said the Strasbourg court had handed down the "right verdict".

"The facts of this case are tragic, but the government considers that the court has upheld the important principle that individuals are only prosecuted where there is a realistic prospect of conviction," the spokesperson said.

Although the family has failed to implicate individual officers, they did succeed in prosecuting the police force as a whole for breaching health and safety regulations, receiving £175,000 (240,000 euros, $270,000) in compensation.

They received further damages in 2009 through a civil action, though that amount was kept confidential.

Further inquests into the death have backed the initial investigations, though the police have repeatedly apologised for their fatal mistake.

"(De Menezes) was a totally innocent victim and in no way to blame for his untimely death," the police said at the time of the compensation deal in 2009.

© 2016 AFP

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