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The BBC's Kevin Connolly
"Republicans in Northern Ireland will see this as a damning indictment of the British"
 real 56k

Professor Dickson, Chief Human Rights Commissioner
"This is not a victory for the IRA, it is a victory for human rights"
 real 56k

The Ulster Unionist Party's Ken Macginnis
"It is quite perverse"
 real 28k

Sinn Fein chief whip Alex Maskey
"It is a very important legal judgement"
 real 28k

Friday, 4 May, 2001, 17:26 GMT 18:26 UK
UK condemned over IRA deaths
IRA men killed in Loughgall: top row l-r Patrick McKearny, Tony Gormley, James Lynagh, Paddy Kelly, bot row l-r Eugene Kelly, Seamus Donnelly, Gerard O'Callaghan and Declan Arthurs
Families say security forces used excessive force
Ten IRA men shot dead by the security forces in Northern Ireland had their human rights violated, a European court has ruled.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has awarded each of the victim's families 10,000 in compensation - the first time the court has given compensation in such a case.

The judges considered four separate cases between 1982 and 1992 in which 14 people were killed.

They involved the deaths of 12 IRA men, a Sinn Fein member and a civilian at the hands of the SAS, the RUC and the loyalist Ulster Defence Association - allegedly acting in collusion with the RUC.

Some of the incidents prompted claims that a shoot-to-kill policy was being operated by the security forces.

In a judgement on Friday, the court ruled that eight IRA men shot dead by soldiers of an undercover SAS unit at Loughgall, County Armagh, in 1987, and two IRA men killed by RUC officers, had their human rights violated.

It said this had arisen because of the failure of the state authorities to conduct a proper investigation into the circumstances of the deaths.

A similar finding was brought in the case of Sinn Fein member Patrick Shanaghan, who was killed by loyalist paramilitaries.

The findings were brought under Article Two of the Human Rights Convention.

John Reid said the criticisms were
John Reid said the criticisms were "of procedures"

Secretary of State John Reid said he welcomed the fact that the court had "not made any finding that these deaths amounted to unlawful killing".

"The criticisms are of procedures, the investigations, not the deaths themselves," he said. "We will want to study those criticisms seriously."

First Minister David Trimble said the ruling appeared to him to be "astonishing and perverse".

Relatives of the victims have previously said the shootings and the subsequent investigations amounted to a breach of the convention.

Cases brought by the families of
Patrick Kelly and seven other IRA men who died in a gunfight with the SAS
The father of Pearse Jordan, shot dead by the RUC
The son of Gervase McKerr, who died with two other IRA members at the hands of a special RUC unit
The mother of Sinn Fein member Patrick Shanaghan, shot by the UDA, acting in collusion with the RUC, according to the family

Lawyers for the families claimed that excessive force was used.

They said there was no effective investigation after each incident, in contravention of the requirements of the human rights code, to which the United Kingdom is a signatory.

Apart from the moral pressure generated by a finding against a government which has signed the Human Rights Convention, the Strasbourg judges have no power to direct a change in national laws.

The cases were brought by relatives of some of the dead men.

Lawyers for relatives of Patrick Kelly and the seven others who died in the worst single loss of life for the IRA at Loughgall argued in the human rights court that excessive force was used.

The IRA men were killed along with a passer-by, Anthony Hughes, when soldiers of an undercover SAS unit ambushed them during an IRA attack on a police station.

The families said there was a failure to control and conduct the SAS ambush operation, and that there was no effective investigation into the circumstances of the shooting.

Car in which Gervaise McKerr was shot near Lurgan
Car in which Gervaise McKerr was shot near Lurgan

The subsequent inquest was flawed, they alleged, with no legal aid for relatives, lack of advance disclosure to the family of inquest statements, the use of public interest immunity certificates and the lack of compulsion upon the soldiers who fired the shots to give evidence.

Similar claims of breaches of the human rights code were made on behalf of relatives of the other victims.

In addition, it was claimed that the trial judge in the prosecution of RUC officers involved in the killing of Gervase McKerr and two other IRA men was biased.

He was shot dead along with two other IRA members in 1982. Their families have not yet brought cases.

In Pearse Jordan's case, it was claimed that the failure to prosecute those involved in an "unlawful killing" amounted to a breach of human rights.

In the case of Patrick Shanaghan, it was claimed that the inquest was flawed because its scope was too limited and it was delayed excessively.

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See also:

04 May 01 | Northern Ireland
IRA deaths: The four shootings
04 May 01 | UK
IRA deaths: Full judgement
04 May 01 | Northern Ireland
Mixed reaction to court ruling
04 Apr 00 | Northern Ireland
Families hear 'shoot-to-kill' case
05 Apr 00 | Northern Ireland
'Shoot-to-kill' case gets go-ahead
02 Oct 00 | Northern Ireland
Human rights law takes effect
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