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30 March 2000 Edition

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Shoot to kill goes to Europe

BY LAURA FRIEL

Shoot to kill and collusion will come under the international spotlight again next week when relatives of 12 northern nationalists killed in controversial circumstances present their case to the European Court of Human Rights. The Strasbourg hearing coincides with the second week of the Saville Inquiry into the British Army's controversial killing of 14 unarmed Irish nationalists in Derry in 1972.

Relatives of the twelve claim that the killings violated Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to life. In 1995, the Strasbourg court ruled that the British government had violated Article 2 when the SAS shot dead three unarmed IRA Volunteers in Gibraltar. After the ruling, the British government came under intense international pressure to pull out of the Council of Europe, which oversees the court and the convention.

The cases before the European court include the shooting of an unarmed IRA Volunteer, Gervaise McKerr, by the RUC in 1982, the of eight IRA Volunteers and one civilian killed during a SAS ambush in Loughgall in 1989, the RUC shooting of an unarmed IRA man, Pearse Jordan in 1992 and Crown force collusion in the loyalist murder of Sinn Fein activist Patrick Shanaghan in 1991.

At the hearing, which is due to open on Tuesday, 4 April, relatives of the dead men will ask the court to declare the cases admissible on the grounds that the killings took place in disputed circumstances which have never been properly investigated.

In the case of Pearse Jordan, who was unarmed when he was shot dead by the RUC after they stopped his car on the Falls Road, there followed no prosecutions and the inquest into the killing was adjourned.

Hugh Jordan, father of the deceased, will tell the court that the decision not to prosecution any of the crown forces personnel involved in the shooting and the lack of an adequate investigation into the circumstances of the killing represents a further violation of the right to life.

Gervaise McKerr was one of three people killed by the RUC in one of the most controversial shoot to kill cases in the Six Counties. His death was one of six investigated by the ill-fated Stalker Inquiry. A five-man RUC unit fired 109 rounds of ammunition into McKerr's car. All three men in the vehicle were unarmed. Stalker's attempts to reinvestigate the killings were thwarted when he was abruptly dismissed from the inquiry.

Relatives of those killed in Loughgall claim that despite the fact that the authorities had prior knowledge of the IRA operation, they made no attempt to arrest members of the active service unit. The SAS established a killing zone with the intention of executing anyone who entered into their field of fire.

The mother of Patrick Shanaghan, who was shot dead by a masked gunman in Castlederg, will tell the court that her son was deprived of the right to life by RUC collusion with loyalist death squads. Patrick was targeted for constant harassment by the RUC prior to the shooting. A few months before his death, he was informed by the RUC that his files were ``missing'' and were in the hands of loyalists.
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