UK Liberty

Who really killed de Menezes?

Posted in de Menezes by ukliberty on November 6, 2007

asks David Aaronovitch, writing in the Times, not realising the police admitted doing it:

A couple of years ago I did my second stint of jury service at a Central London court. We ended up hearing a case in which a middle-class couple were terrorised one evening by a man who had decided, wrongly, that they were connected with an earlier argument he’d lost with someone else entirely. There was a lot of punching, threatening and door-smashing involved, and the woman was still so scared that she testified from behind a screen so that the accused wouldn’t see her face. “I don’t like her,” said one of my fellow jurors. “Stuck-up. Brought it on herself.”

I was reminded of this moment when reading Sean O’Neill’s comment in this paper last week, that while everyone in Britain now knew who Jean Charles de Menezes was, few of those most vociferously calling for action against the Metropolitan Police, were likely to recall more than one or two names — if that — of the victims of the July 7, 2005 bombings, which happened 15 days earlier.

Indeed, I don’t recall any of the names of the victims of the 7 July suicide bombings. Does that make my criticism any less valid, just because I remember the one victim from a controversial police shooting, but none of the victims (52 killed, 700 injured) from the 7 July suicide bombings? Ok fine, I’ll learn them… bear with me… one mo… no, I haven’t changed my mind about my criticism.

We are in a strange condition not to have noticed that the two main criticisms of the Met in the de Menezes case are — more or less — incompatible. The one case is that, for whatever reason, the officers involved acted with appalling and undue violence, as a result of which an ordinary member of the public was left with seven dum-dum bullets inside him, and there but for the grace of God die we. The other is that the police, believing Mr de Menezes to be a 21/7 bomber returning to public transport to fulfil the jihadi duty that he’d flunked the day before, allowed him to board a bus and then a train, without intercepting him.

You can try and evade the choice, but it is really one or the other.

Well no, that is the position of the police, who can’t have it both ways – if they did believe de Menezes was a suicide bomber, then he shouldn’t have been allowed to board the bus (twice) or the tube train. Conversely, if they didn’t believe he was a suicide bomber, they shouldn’t have shot him. Not difficult.

The former was of course among the 19 allegations made by the prosecution in the H&S trial. Criticism of the killing not an exclusive, incompatible position – it is another reasonable position, an allegation, in addition to the other 18 allegations.

Either, as on 9/11, you neglect to make the presumption that hijacked planes may be flown into buildings and therefore don’t scramble your fighters quickly with explicit orders to shoot down passenger aircraft that fail to respond, or — as under the terms of Operation Kratos — you shoot first and discover the bombs, or the absence of them, afterwards. Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, was right when he criticised last week’s verdict: “Mistakes are always going to happen in wars or situations like this.”

Fine, so let’s change the law. But as it stands we must not arbitrarily apply it. To do so puts the police beyond the law, erodes the rule of law, and that is just plain wrong. As the judge said, “To suggest that it is wrong to prosecute the police for an alleged offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act is to submit that the police are above the law. It applies to them as it applies to any other employer. They are accountable.”

That’s what Aaronovitch and Livingstone are effectively calling for – the police to be put beyond the law when they make a mistake. Even if that mistake – or number of mistakes – leads to the death of an innocent man. Do we really want that?

That’s why the man who really caused the death of Jean Charles de Menezes was not the policeman who put the bullets in the poor Brazilian’s head but an Ethiopian called Hussein Osman. It was Osman who, one day earlier, had tried to blow up a train full of passengers at Shepherd’s Bush, Osman who was linked to the block of flats in Stockwell where Mr de Menezes lived, and Osman whom the police thought they were following. No matter how one tries to skirt around this point, had Osman not existed, or else been content with allowing his fellow citizens to exist in peace, Jean Charles de Menezes would still be alive.

No, that’s most unconvincing. See Chris Dillow – Causation vs Responsibility.

Osman had come to Britain in the late 1990s from Italy, telling the authorities that he was from Somalia. He liked to go to Speaker’s Corner, where he would regale his listeners with militant Islam, but at some point the religiosity turned into something more dangerous. And according to the head of MI5, Jonathan Evans, speaking yesterday, there are 2,000 known individuals in Britain who would be Osmans if they could be, constituting the “most immediate and acute peacetime threat” in the past 90 years.

As of this spring, 17 people were subjected to anti-terrorist control orders (it was 22, but a number absconded). This made it all the more interesting that Peter Kosminsky, the dramatist, in last week’s Channel 4 drama, Britz, chose to explain a Muslim character’s transition from normality to bomber in terms of a friend’s suicide while under a control order.

Kosminsky’s objective was to show that the measures we might take to curb terrorism were themselves the cause of terror. In a postscript the female bomber’s posthumous testimony, after she has taken out an amphitheatre’s worth of music-loving Londoners, tells us: “You are not innocent, OK? As long as you keep electing this government . . . as long as you sit on your hands while they pass these laws which you know are wrong, you are not innocent!”

The author claimed that he was doing a service to the friends and relatives of those killed on 7/7 by trying to prevent more atrocities, “and the first step is to try to understand how it could have happened in the first place”.

“British Muslims,” he went on, “are infuriated by a foreign policy that appears to be an attack on Muslims worldwide — a new Crusade — and a shockingly large series of security measures which seem to be aimed solely at them.”

But where did Kosminsky’s explanation come from? Certainly not from the trials of those convicted of terrorist offences, or from the testimony beyond the grave of those who have committed atrocities.

Well, that seems to be an odd claim, because one of the 7 July bombers, Mohammad Sidique Khan, left a video, in which he said (rightly or wrongly):

Your democratically elected governments continuously perpetuate atrocities against my people all over the world. And your support of them makes you directly responsible, just as I am directly responsible for protecting and avenging my Muslim brothers and sisters.

Until we feel security you will be our targets and until you stop the bombing, gassing, imprisonment and torture of my people we will not stop this fight. We are at war and I am a soldier. Now you too will taste the reality of this situation.

Aaronovitch may also be interested in the tape left by the tape of Shehzad Tanweer.

Furthermore, a number of Muslims have expressed concern about UK counter-terrorism legislation, and Government advisors have also expressed that it may cause conflict with the Muslim community. Again, I’m not saying whether or not they are in the right – in fact, I think they are wrong, as the law stands. What I’m saying is, it seems a bit silly to perpetuate the myth that the only factor in the decision to bomb is being a fanatical Muslim – that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the perception of legislation and its outcomes here in the UK, makes no difference at all. That seems to be pretty irrational.

Back to Aaronovitch:

Muktar Ibrahim was the main man in Hussein Osman’s conspiracy. An Eritrean, he came to Britain aged 12, was convicted of indecent assault at 15, of robbery at 17 and of gang violence the following year. Then he got religion at the hands of Abu Hamza and Abdullah el-Faisal. In 2003 he went to Sudan — and on his return boasted that he was now a jihadi. Nothing to do with anti-terror laws, but far more to do with ego and an apocalyptic ideology, in which mass murder is sanctified. And Ibrahim is not untypical. So why wasn’t Kosminsky’s bomber like Ibrahim? Because then it wouldn’t be our fault.

But can one imagine a Kosminsky film in which a middle-class Londoner, driven mad by the terrorist murder of a fellow Underground passenger, becomes an anti-Muslim vigilante, blowing up a Muslim school, and has the last word? Or a BNP activist enraged by immigration?

Well, yes I can – Miles Cooper, for instance (BBC), who was sufficiently angry about the surveillance society to send letter bombs.

There is something as perverse going on here as there was in that juror’s mind. The people responsible for terrorism are not the police, not the Government, but the terrorists. They have a say, they have the vote, but they choose murder. To suggest otherwise is not just treacherous, it’s untrue.

But of course no-one reasonable is saying otherwise.

What Aaronovitch, Livingstone et al seem to fail to understand is that it is possible and rational to be critical of terrorists and the police. Are they being deliberately obtuse, or are they just fick?

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