The European Court of Human Rights finding last week that the British government had violated the rights of 12 people the security forces shot dead between 1982 and 1992 has been used by both Unionists and republicans to score propaganda points. The Unionists are outraged because in 10 cases, those killed were active members of the IRA, and in one instance, the Loughgall massacre, were armed and engaged in a violent attack.
Sinn Fein is proclaiming that once more Britain stands indicted before the world for its record in Northern Ireland.
In fact, neither are correct.
The finding concerned Northern Ireland’s woeful lack of adequate procedures to make sure thorough investigations into the circumstances surrounding such deaths take place. The British home secretary has announced a review of those procedures. The court’s ruling can in no way be seen as some kind of approval of what the IRA was doing at the time its activists died.
It simply makes clear that it is in the best interests of everyone that a fair and objective investigation be allowed to take place, especially where there exist real questions about possible collusion between the killers and the security forces, as in the case of one of those the court looked at, Patrick Shanaghan. The whole community, both Nationalist and Unionist, can only benefit when both sides have legal procedures that will inspire confidence.
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