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Court of Appeal upholds "shoot to kill" case
16 January, 2003 --
The family of IRA Volunteer Gervaise McKerr, who was killed by the RUC in a
shoot to kill operation on 11 November 1982, has welcomed the judgement of the
Court of Appeal in Belfast that the British government failed to properly
investigate the shootings 20 years ago.
McKerr, together with Volunteers Eugene Toman and Sean Burns, was ambushed by
the RUC near Lurgan in 1982. All three were unarmed when they were killed.
In May 2001, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled that the
British government had breached the Right to Life in the cases of 12 people who
were killed by the British Army and RUC. Since then, the British government has
consistently refused to provide any effective investigation into the McKerr case
and others, arguing that the killings happened before the European Convention on
Human Rights was incorporated into British domestic law in October 2000.
The McKerr family tested the new European Court ruling in the High Court in
Belfast, however Judge Campbell dismissed the finding of the European Court on
the grounds that McKerr was not entitled to a declaration, as the case had been
settled when the European Court awarded his family £10,000 compensation. The
family appealed this ruling.
McKerr's lawyer, Angela Ritchie of Madden and Finucane, argued that the killings
had breached article two of the European Convention of Human Rights, the right
to life, and that the trial of three RUC men who were acquitted of murder had
not met the aims of reassuring the McKerr family and the public as to the
lawfulness of the killings.
In delivering the appeal court's decision on Friday 10 January, Lord Chief
Justice Carswell, sitting with two other judges, declared that the appellant's
claim "is well founded and we propose to make a declaration that the government
has failed to carry out an investigation which complies with article two".
Speaking afterwards, Angela Ritchie said the judgement is not only a vindication
for the McKerr family, but for all families who were denied any effective
investigation into the killing of a family member by the state.
"The British government has attempted to delay giving effect to the rights of
the McKerr family since the landmark judgement of the European Court of Human
Rights delivered two years ago, and even now seek to further delay satisfying
their obligations under the Right to Life provisions, by seeking to appeal this
judgement to the British House of Lords," she said.
Meanwhile, hopes are high that there will finally be a full investigation into
the killing by the RUC of 23-year-old Pearse Jordan after Friday's landmark
judgement. The unarmed IRA Volunteer from New Barnsley was shot dead after the
RUC rammed his car on the Falls Road in November 1992.
Pearse Jordan's father Hugh said the judgement had given the family fresh hope
in their ten-year fight for a proper investigation into the killing.