August 17, 2005

Independent Commission: London Police Lied About Jean Charles de Menezes

The New York Times passes along a report from British news outlet ITV (see also the longer article in The Observer) which obtained leaked documents from the Independent Police Complaints Commission suggesting that the London Police lied about the circumstances surrounding the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, the innocent Brazilian man who was executed without trial on the Tube last month in connection with the terrorist attacks of July 21.

If you are about to complain that the phrase "executed without trial" is excessive hyperbole, or somehow misrepresents the situation, don't bother. The new report states that Menezes was not wearing a heavy coat (only a thin denim jacket), did not react to being followed, did not flee from police, and was already seated on the train when the police boarded. He did not trip and fall to the ground as was previously suggested, nor did he jump the turnstile. The police shot him (no less than 8 times) because they mistook him for a suspected terrorist. According to the Times article, and unidentified police officer told the independent commission, "I grabbed the male in the denim jacket ... then pushed him back onto the seat where he had been previously sitting. I then heard a gunshot very close to my left ear ..." There does not seem to have been any evidence that Mr. Menezes was an imminent threat to the passengers on the train but, because he was mistaken for someone else who was wanted in connection with the terrorist investigation, he was shot to death on the spot. This is outrageous. I want to see criminal charges pressed against the police officers involved.

Posted by kpearce at 09:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 25, 2005

British Police Refuse to Apologize For Death, Defend "Shoot to Kill" Policy

"It wasn't just a random event, and the most important thing to recognize is that it is still happening out there ... Somebody else could be shot." - London Police Commisioner Sir Ian Blair, in an interview with Sky News.

The New York Times is reporting on a statement issued by London's Police Commissioner in which he defended the "shoot to kill" policy he instituted following the bombings on July 7. Speaking of the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, a man who was shot to death on the Tube, London's subway system, last week by plain-clothes police men and later discovered not to have been related in any way to terrorism, Sir Ian insisted, "There is nothing gratuitous here in what is going on." Excuse me?! Nothing gratuituous? The man was frightened by his pursuers who, let us recall, were not in police uniform, tripped hurring on to the train, and was subsequently pinned to the ground and shot five times in the head. Gratuitous? Of course not. The most serious charge that can be made against Mr. Menezes is that he was wearing something similar in appearance to a detonator belt used by suicide bombers and, being frightened, did not immediately obey orders when his pursuers identified themselves as police officers. Now he is dead. Unnecessarily. That's gratuitous, and it's indefensible. If I was in London now I can tell you I would probably be more afraid of police than of terrorists, and that is a horrible situation for all. The police need to work with the people who - let me remind them - actually want the police to succeed in capturing terrorists, rather than becoming enemies of the populace and engaging in random acts of violence then justifying them by some nonsense claims about showing the terrorists we are serious. It is time for the British police to apologize and more. It is time for them to demonstrate to the family of Mr. Menesez that they take this death and their culpabilty in the matter seriously, and work to ensure that the incident is not repeated. This is in stark opposition to Sir Ian's words, as he stoicly accepts the possibility of more gratuitous deaths due to police action. The British people are just beginning to react to the matter. Their reaction had better become stronger before more of them die.

Posted by kpearce at 07:12 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 24, 2005

Man Shot to Death by London Police: Not a Terrorist After All

WorldMagBlog is linking to a New York Times article, published this morning, reporting that Scotland Yard admitted yesterday that the man gunned down by London police on the Tube last Friday was not connected to the terrorist bombings of July 7, or the attempted bombings of July 21st. The mayor of London, Ken Livingston, had issued "shoot to kill" orders for police, who previously did not carry firearms at all, in regard to terror suspects under certain circumstances. (For a good, short summary of events so far, see this post and this one by Josh at "Freedom Of..." He has yet to comment on the discovery that the man was innocent.)

Interestingly enough, before the announcement was made I had a discussion with some friends of mine as to whether or not the orders were justified. The ultimate outcome just shows the need for a fair, public trial in which an individual can defend himself. Police seem to have thought this man was wearing a bomb, and the shoot-to-kill order seems to have had to do with fear of detonating an explosive device if police shot to wound the man in the trunk, rather than shooting him in the head. What I want to know is how did it come about that the man was shot at all? According to this BBC report, it seems that the man was followed by plain-clothes officers from his home. When they identified themselves and issued instructions it is unclear to what degree he followed them, but he was clearly very frightened. Eyewitnesses reported that the man was already restrained before he was shot! An eyewitness interviewed by the BBC, Mark Whitby, said "they pushed him to the floor, bundled on top of him and unloaded five shots into him." This occurred on the Tube in front of a large number of passengers. If the man was already restrained and under the control of police, why on earth was he shot? Whitby described the man as "Asian," but, according to the New York Times, he has been positively identified as a Brazilian.

This story is typical of the type of panic that the terrorist attacks in the United States previously and in Britain now are intended to engender. They have, in that regard been very successful. In the US, immediately following the 9/11 attacks, Congress hastily passed the horrifically misnamed USA PATRIOT Act, apparently without reading it. The fear seems still to be here (or the federal government is making a shameless power grab, which I consider just as likely), as the House passed a bill to reauthorize the excessive law enforcement powers of the PATRIOT Act last Thursday (you can find out how your representative voted here). London is feeling the same kind of panic, and this is the reason for the arming of police in the first place. I certainly don't oppose arming the police (except that Britain has disarmed the populace, which makes armed police scary), but the police seem to be panicked as well. If we lose our heads we lose our freedom. We must opppose terrorists while also opposing excessive government power, and maintaining our rights. Even had Mr. Menezes been guilty, he would have deserved a fair trial. All the more so due to his innocence. There is a long tradition in English Common Law, later enshrined in the US Constitution, of "rights of the accused." Police in a free country cannot execute a man like this without a trial (particularly if the man is innocent). It seems clear and obvious that the force used was excessive. Britain has a tradition of criminal prosecutions against police in cases like this, and, since the officers were clearly at fault, I can only say that I hope it continues.

Posted by kpearce at 03:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack