Pressure grows over anti-terror policies
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Pressure grows over anti-terror policies

Financial Times | July 25 2005

* Police under fire for shoot-to-kill guidelines

* Commissioner apologises to family of shot man

Police chiefs were last night under growing pressure from MPs and the Muslim community over Friday's gunning down of an innocent man mistaken for a suicide bomber.

Senior MPs have called for clarification of secret guidelines telling police to shoot at the head of suspects, and leading Muslims have asked for a complete review of the policy.

The controversy surrounding the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, a Brazilian electrician living in London, is a serious set back for the police who last night made a third arrest in connection with the July 21 attempted suicide bombings.

Charles Clarke, home secretary, delayed his holiday to deal with the crisis, as MPs on the Commons home affairs select committee called for a clarification of the so-called "shoot-to-kill" policy.

Ann Cryer, a Labour member of the committee, sympathised with the police officer who mistook Mr de Menezes for a suicide bomber in a surveillance operation linked to the London blasts.

But she added: "We mustn't automatically go down the path of shoot-to-kill. We are taking on the mantle of terrorists if we do that . . . We can't lower ourselves to that standard ...I would never ever support a shoot-to-kill policy."

Lord Stevens, former Metropolitan Police commissioner, confirmed in a Sunday newspaper article that - as disclosed by the Financial Times on Saturday - he had introduced a new "shoot-to-kill" policy when dealing with potential suicide bombers. Whereas in the past officers had been told to disable a suspect by aiming at the body, "there is only one sure way to stop a suicide bomber determined to fulfil his mission: destroy his brain instantly, utterly".

It is understood Lord Stevens introduced that policy in 2003. Officers were reminded of the guidelines in an internal memo issued after the July 7 bombings.

Senior police insisted yesterday there would be no review of the policy, despite opposition from the Islamic Human Rights Commission, a Muslim community group. Its spokesman, Massoud Shadareh, called for a public inquiry into Mr de Menezes's death and accused the police of misleading Muslims over the "shoot-to-kill" policy.

He said: "Britain is a democracy. We cannot allow police to kill people simply on the basis of suspicion and without anyone debating the policy that belongs to a police state."

He added that Muslim community leaders had asked police in 2002 for assurances they were not contemplating the kind of shoot-to-kill tactics employed in Israel.

Minutes of the 2002 meeting, obtained by the FT, reveal that while David Veness, then head of the Met's anti-terrorist officers, admitted that the force had visited Israel, he said "the experience of Israel and some of its responses to suicide bombings would not be suitable as a response to the UK".

The home affairs select committee is expected to investigate the issue in the autumn.

Sir Ian Blair, Metropolitan Police commissioner, apologised to Mr de Menezes's family but issued a staunch defence of his officers and warned that more people may die as part of what he called a "shoot-to-kill in order to protect" policy.

Mr Clarke extended his "full support" to the police, backing their decision "to develop the policies . . to deal with the threat of suicide bombers."

 

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