Socialist Worker

Anger after family of Jean Charles de Menezes loses human rights challenge

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2497

The family of Jean Charles de Menezes during a protest in London in 2006

The family of Jean Charles de Menezes during a protest in London in 2006 (Pic: Guy Smallman)

The family of Jean Charles de Menezes has lost a human rights challenge over the decision not to charge British police who killed him.

Judges at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled British prosecutors were right not to charge officers over the Brazilian electrician's fatal shooting in 2005.

Lawyers for the family argued the decision was incompatible with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which covers the right to life.

The family’s claim also challenged the definition of self-defence in British law. Under this officers only had to show they had an "honest belief" that they were right to use such a high degree of force.

Judges rejected the case in its entirety.

Patricia da Silva Armani, cousin of Jean Charles, lived with him at the time of the shooting. She said, “Our family are deeply disappointed at today’s judgement. We had hoped that the ruling would give a glimmer of hope, not only to us, but to all other families who have been denied the right to justice after deaths at the hands of the police.

"We find it unbelievable that our innocent cousin could be shot seven times in head by the Metropolitan police when he had done nothing wrong and yet the police have not had to account for their actions.

"As we have always maintained, 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. We will never give up our fight for justice for our beloved Jean Charles."

Harriet Wistrich, solicitor for the Menezes family said, “This is a very disappointing decision for a family who have fought for the last eleven years to get justice and accountability although we are pleased to note that there were four of the 17 judges who dissented.


"This judgement will do nothing to counter a widely held belief – particularly among marginalised communities – that there is one standard for the police and another for the general public."

When Jean Charles was killed surveillance officers, including some from military intelligence, were watching flats in Tulse Hill, looking for alleged terrorists. They did not know which flat Jean Charles had been in.

Officers followed him onto two buses and down into Stockwell tube station in south London. One police officer held Jean Charles down while two others fired seven hollow tip bullets into his head and one into his neck. Three other bullets missed.

Within 15 minutes of his death, an explosives expert had confirmed that Jean Charles was not the “suicide bomber” the police had claimed he was. His wallet and mobile phone showed his true identity.

Dozens of other officers later admitted that they knew within hours that Jean Charles was innocent.

Yet the police in general – and Metropolitan police chief Ian Blair in particular – claimed for a further 24 hours that Jean Charles had been involved in a terror plot.

The killing took place the day after a failed bombing attempt in London and two weeks after the 7/7 bombings.

In the investigations and inquest that followed, police officers altered their evidence. Evidence was tampered with or removed. Photographs were altered to make Jean Charles look more like the suspected suicide bomber. Witnesses were intimidated. Malicious lies about Jean Charles appeared in the press.

The Metropolitan Police was fined £175,000 after a health and safety trial convicted it of “endangering the ­public” and having failed “to provide for the health, safety and welfare of Jean Charles de Menezes”.

This is a disgusting understatement.

One truth remains – that rampaging police officers gunned down an innocent man. Yet no officer at any level has been disciplined or prosecuted for involvement in the slaying of Jean Charles.


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Article information

Wed 30 Mar 2016, 16:36 BST
Issue No. 2497
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