The officers who killed Jean Charles de Menezes will not be prosecuted. Maz Saleem looks at a system that allows the police to avoid accountability
The sun was finally gleaming through the office windows last week, making me feel rather gleeful, knowing that summer was around the corner. My joyful mood vanished as I read the headlines over a lunch break; “family loses fight for police officers to be prosecuted”. I immediately felt the horror and despair this news must bring to the de Menezes family who have struggled for justice for over a decade.
Jean Charles De Menezes was a 27-year-old electrician who was shot dead by police on 22 July 2005. Officers were on a mission hunting terrorists weeks after the 7 July attacks in the capital that killed 52 people. De Menezes was shot seven times in the head and once in the shoulder at point-blank range by officers from the Metroplitan Police’s CO19 firearms unit. A string of blunders led members of that unit to open fire with their guns just centimetres away from de Menezes’ head as he was pinned down into a seat on an underground train. He died instantly.
Relatives of Jean Charles de Menezes have lost a legal challenge against the decision not to charge police officers who killed him because they mistakenly believed he was a suicide bomber. His family condemned the judgement for allowing police to avoid accountability.
The police commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, told a press conference that the dead man “was challenged and refused to obey police instructions”, Scotland Yard said his “clothing and behaviour at the station added to their suspicions”.
In the immediate aftermath of the shooting these claims were all found to be dubious. Blair admitted that the force had made a “serious mistake”. Witness reports, police statements, and photographs of the aftermath of the death of innocent Jean Charles de Menezes on 22 July 2005 had been leaked from the IPCC investigation into the incident, exposing a series of catastrophic failings in police procedure, intelligence and basic common sense. Obfuscation from the very top down to the undercover CO19/SO19 officers obscured a catalogue of failures that led to the police killing of an innocent Brazilian man at Stockwell Underground station.
Despite police spin, the truth is de Menezes was not an illegal immigrant, de Menezes did not vault over ticket barriers; he was not carrying a bag, or wearing a rucksack; he did not run from the police. They did not challenge him and de Menezes was not wearing a padded jacket that concealed a bomb. Instead he wore a denim jacket that was hiding nothing.
Da Silva Armani, who was staying with De Menezes at the time of the shooting, 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 the head by the Met police when he had done nothing wrong and yet the police have not had to account for their actions. “
… 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.
But the facts that have emerged - many from leaked documents - also suggest more than incompetence on the part of the police. De Menezes was not positively identified at any point during the surveillance operation. At the last-minute he was given a totally incorrect 'positive ID' that resulted in his murder by two plain clothes police officers. De Menezes arrived at Stockwell tube station in a perfectly normal manner, stopping along the way to pick up a free newspaper.
The Menezes family was briefed by the police that their son did not jump over the ticket barrier and he used a travelcard to pass through; this was subsequently confirmed by CCTV recordings shown publicly by the Metropolitan Police. At no point did the plain clothes and armed officers identify themselves to him. The case for abandoning the shoot-to-kill policy, disarming the police further, and removing powers that allow them to shoot innocent people is stronger than ever.
An innocent man was killed by bullets from two guns. They did not go off by themselves. Two officers fired those guns and they need to be held to account. The system that has allowed them to avoid justice needs to be exposed and challenged. No Justice - No Peace - RIP Jean Charles de Menezes - gone but Never forgotten!
Maz Saleem is the daughter of 82-year-old Mohammed Saleem, who was murdered in Birmingham just yards from his house by Ukrainian far-right terrorist Pavlo Lapshyn. Maz is an active campaigner against racism and Islamophobia in Britain.
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