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Investigations into mistaken identity killing not a breach of Article 2 Right to Life

Armani da Silva v the United Kingdom (application no. 5878/08)

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled by thirteen votes to four that the UK government did not breach its procedural obligations under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, by failing to prosecute any individual involved in the death of Jean Charles de Menezes.  He was shot dead on 22nd July 2005, a few weeks following attacks on the London transport network, because police mistakenly believed him to be a suicide bomber. 

Surveillance officers had been deployed to the apartment block where two suspects were believed to reside.  However, mistakes were made during the course of the operation.  Special Firearms Officers were not deployed on time to intercept anyone leaving the block and the victim was not at any time before his death stopped or positively identified as the suspect.  While the Metropolitan Police were successfully prosecuted and fined under the Health and Safety at Work legislation, the Crown Prosecution Service and Independent Police Complaints Commission concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the individual officers involved.  There was therefore no breach of the investigative duty under Article 2.  

The majority held that, ‘following a thorough investigation, a prosecutor had considered all the facts of the case and concluded that there was insufficient evidence against any individual officer to prosecute.’

Three of the four dissenting judges however held that, ‘If acts of killing in putative self-defence based on an unjustified error are not properly criminalised and punished under domestic law, there is a serious danger that the police may use excessive force with lethal effect.’ 

Read the UK Human Rights Blog article here.

ECHR Art. 2, Right to Life