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[Press release] Combating terrorism cannot justify a licence to kill for the police

July 2005

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Press release

July 2005

Combating terrorism cannot justify a licence to kill for the police

The International Federation of ACAT (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture) (FIACAT), an ecumenical association operating in 33 countries on 4 continents, expresses its profound sympathy to the relatives of Jean Charles de Menezes, a Brazilian citizen working in the United Kingdom who was tragically killed by British plain-clothes police on 22 July 2005.

FIACAT would like to express its grave concern regarding the official excuses for the conduct of these police officers.

The terrorist threat is a serious challenge for our democracies. The recent attacks in London confirm the need for States to confront this menace, with respect for the principles of the rule of law and the standards and obligations of international human rights law (particularly the United Nations Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions).

These principles define the limits of permitted and legitimate State action against terrorism.

Accordingly, FIACAT warns all democracies against "tragic errors" which, in the name of the fight against terrorism, could lead to extra-judicial executions becoming commonplace, at the risk of gravely damaging the foundations of our democratic societies.

It cannot be denied that Scotland Yard’s "tragic error" leading to the death of Jean Charles de Menezes was an extra-judicial execution under international law. These are strictly forbidden, whether in times of peace or times of war.

A democratic society cannot allow the police to shoot on the basis of simple suspicion.

This type of mistake must not be repeated. The risk is that the fight against terrorism will lose all legitimacy.

Moreover, it is absolutely necessary that there be an impartial and effective inquiry into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, that the results be made public and that those responsible be brought to justice to prevent any more tragedies of this kind.

Contact : Nathalie Jeannin - n.jeannin@fiacat.org

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