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Wednesday, 5 April, 2000, 15:40 GMT 16:40 UK
'Shoot-to-kill' case gets go-ahead
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 IRA men were 'shoot to kill' victims
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Britain has a case to answer in relation to allegations of an "illegal shoot-to-kill" policy in Northern Ireland.

The Strasbourg based court issued its preliminary ruling after hearing allegations from lawyers representing the families of 12 men shot dead by security forces during the 1980's and early 90's.

The court also heard allegations of excessive use of force and collusion by the security forces with loyalist paramilitaries in the four separate incidents in which the men were killed.

The ruling means that the court considers all the complaints fall within its remit. The case will now be heard in full and a judgement on the merits of the cases will be delivered at a later date.

"Shoot-to-kill" cases
Pearse Jordan: shot by RUC officers in November 1992.
Gervaise McKerr: 109 rounds fired into his car in November 1982
Patrick Shanaghan: Family believe he was killed by the loyalist UFF in collusion with the security force in 1991
Nine men shot by SAS during an attack on Loughgall RUC station in May 1987
The men's families contend that article 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights has been contravened because the investigation into the killings was not thorough enough to guarantee their right to life.

But the UK Government believes inquests and police investigations are sufficient to meet those obligations.

IRA man Pearse Jordan, aged 22, was shot and fatally wounded on the mainly nationalist Falls Road in Belfast by RUC officers in November 1992.

They had stopped his car, but no guns, ammunition, explosives, masks or gloves were found and the victim was unarmed.

'Alternative to arrest'

An inquest said he had been struck by three bullets.

His 59-year old father Hugh, who launched the human rights action, claims the shooting was used as an alternative to arrest and trial.

Gervaise McKerr died in November 1982 when 109 rounds were fired into his car by a trained, five-man RUC unit at Tullygally Road, east Lurgan.
Car in which Gervaise McKerr was shot near Lurgan
Car in which Gervaise McKerr was shot near Lurgan

His two passengers were also killed.

The court heard that the facts relating to the death of Mr McKerr remain in dispute, despite more than 10 years of inquest proceedings and three criminal prosecutions.

His son Jonathan, 26, from Lurgan, says Mr McKerr was deprived of his life intentionally, in breach of the Human Rights code.

The court is also looking at the case of eight IRA men who were shot dead by the SAS during an attack on Loughgall RUC station in Armagh in May 1987.

The men were Seamus Donnelly, 21, Michael Gormley, 25, Declan Arthurs, 21, Eugene Kelly, 25, Patrick Kelly, 30, Patrick McKearney, 33, Gerard O'Callaghan, 28 and James Lynagh, 34.

Families allege ambush

Anthony Hughes, a passer-by driving through the village at the time, was also killed.

The judges heard that 24 soldiers and three RUC officers went to the station in the early hours after being briefed that a terrorist attack was likely, involving a hijacked blue van.

The relatives of the dead men say the authorities planned and executed an ambush designed to kill the terrorists, in violation of their right to life - article 2 of the Convention.

Families believe security forces ambushed IRA men in Loughgall
Families believe security forces ambushed IRA men in Loughgall
They also argue that, despite knowing about the attack in advance, the authorities failed to take "appropriate care in the control and organisation of the operation, in particular to avoid injury to innocent civilians".

Another case being examined is the shooting of a member of Sinn Fein, Patrick Shanaghan in 1991.

His family believe he was killed by the loyalist UFF in collusion with the security force.

Inquests have been held into all of the men's deaths but no-one has ever been prosecuted.

It will be some months before the court delivers its ruling.

If the judges find that procedures in Northern Ireland are not in line with current thinking on human rights, the UK Government will have to change the law.

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04 Apr 00 | Northern Ireland
Families hear 'shoot-to-kill' case
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