United Kingdom — Eleven years after one of the most disturbing cases of mistaken identity in British history, the family of an innocent man shot seven times in the head by police have lost their fight for police officers to be prosecuted. Relatives of Jean Charles de Menezes lodged a case with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to challenge the previous decision by the Crown Prosecution Service. The ECHR declined to charge the officers who killed Menezes after they mistook him for a suicide bomber.
On July 22nd 2005, de Menezes, 27-year-old Brazilian electrician was shot seven times at close range by police officers at the Stockwell tube station. Undercover police had been following him because they thought he looked like Hussain Osman, a failed suicide bomber who was on the run.
A string of bungled efforts led the elite armed unit to follow de Menezes into the London Underground, where they quickly opened fire just centimetres away from his head. He was already sitting in his seat on the train. According to his family, they were not informed of his death until over 24 hours after it happened, even though his driving license was recovered from the scene.
In what has been labelled “one of the most bungled police investigations ever witnessed in the UK,” and despite the Metropolitan Police having been found guilty of breaching health and safety laws, no individuals have been held responsible for the killing. The catastrophic blunder has also included accusations that, along with paying the blood price for systematic failures in British police intelligence and tactics, the de Menezes family were subjected to a string of misinformation, lies, and interference from senior police figures.
This week’s case was heard in the grand chamber of the ECHR, which deals with cases potentially affecting interpretation of the European convention on human rights.
During the hearing, lawyers for the de Menezes family argued the decision not to charge anyone is incompatible with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to life.
However, the BBC reports the Strasbourg court found U.K. authorities had not failed in their obligations under the article to conduct an effective investigation into the shooting.
“The decision not to prosecute any individual officer was not due to any failings in the investigation or the State’s tolerance of or collusion in unlawful acts,” the judgement said.
“Rather, it was due to the fact 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.”
Condemning the court for allowing police to avoid accountability, de Menezes’ cousin, Patricia da Silva, said the family were deeply disappointed. “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,” she said.
She said the family will never give up their quest for justice for their beloved Jean Charles, adding:
“We find it unbelievable that our innocent cousin could be shot seven times in [the] head by the Metropolitan police when he had done nothing wrong and yet the police have not had to account for their actions.”