Sun Jan 29th, 2006 at 07:48:23 PM EST
Ecce Homo: Latin for "behold the man." When Christ was driven through the streets mocked and humiliated, scourged, bloody and beaten, wearing a purple robe and a crown of thorns, Roman authorities were quoted as saying, "Ecce Homo." Behold the man.
The Killing of Jean Charles de Menezes
On July 22 on the Underground Tube in London, the Metropolitan Police, along with a special unit of Security Forces, shot dead an innocent man. Seven shots to the head and one to the shoulder. His name was Jean Charles de Menezes. He was a Brazilian electrician who had lived in London for five years.
Surveillance teams had been watching the apartment complex where Mr. de Menezes lived because they had found the address among the effects of one of the failed July 21st bombers. The targets of their surveillance were two men, one of whom was about de Menezes' height, weight and build. But the suspect's complexion was listed as C3: he was a dark complected Ethiopian. Mr. de Menezes was a light-complected Brazillian.
The surveillance team was stationed in the building across the street from the building where de Menezes lived. One of the team was not watching as de Menezes left the building, as he was busy "relieving himself." The Sunday UK Times did a two page spread on the surveillance team. (This was a few months ago... don't have it with me.) One guy on the team passed de Menezes to ID him. Then that guy was off the team. Another guy passed de Menezes looking at him face to face. He was off the team. I think there were three passes on the sidewalk in front of de Menezes apartment building. After three face-to-face passes they could not make a determination if this was the guy they were looking for. That's why I called this piece "Behold The Man." There was this problem. Right age group, right build and height. Wrong complexion. Wrong ethnic origin. He didn't fit the profile.
Last week some of the results of a six-month Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation into the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes were published in the UK Sunday Times. The shoot-to-kill order could only have come from the Gold Shield Commander, and that is Cressida Dick. Commander Dick has told investigators that she ordered officers only to stop de Menezes from going down into the Stockwell tube station: Her message: "Stop the man." She said she had only had two hours sleep the night before. (See: "Mixed Up Messages That Killed Menezes"; The Sunday Times, January 15)
The surveillance team following de Menezes sent a message to security officers, "This is the man." The firearm officers received the message, "This is the man. This is the suicide bomber." They did not receive the message: "This is the man. This is the man we have been following."
When Mr. de Menezes was shot, he was sitting in the subway train reading the Metro Newspaper. He had passed through the ticket gateway, picked up a free newspaper, and entered the train. He was dressed in jeans and a denim jacket that was open. Witnesses who described a man with a bulky jacket vaulting the ticket gateway were describing an armed security officer. Throughout the day following the killing of de Menezes the papers were filled with reports that the suspect had been wearing a bulky jacket and vaulted the ticket turnstile. Throughout the day the papers were full of rationalizations for the shoot-to-kill policy.
The officers who shot de Menezes understood that their orders were to stop him by deadly force. They understood that this shoot-to-kill policy had been authorized from the top. Did any one of them question whether they had the right man? Did any one of them question the sense of shooting a suspected terrorist rather than taking him in for questioning?
A full day passed until the news was released that the Metropolitan Police had killed an innocent man. Prime Minister Tony Blair and Chief of Metropolitan Police Ian Blair both made statements during that first day that they had used deadly force on a suicide bomber, even when they were aware that de Menezes was not a suspect. They both tried to prevent an investigation, and once underway, to impede its progress.
The public's response: The day after the shooting, just 8 hours before it was announced that de Menezes was an innocent man, the front page of one UK paper read, "SHOOT ALL BOMBERS." de Menezes was described as a terrorist. All that day officials in UK government and law enforcement put out statements to explain and justify a shoot-to-kill-on-suspicion policy, even as it was being revealed to them that they had killed an innocent man.
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ECCE HOMO: Behold the man
I am not making the comparison between Christ and de Menezes here. Christ was, among other things, a political activist. Some might say he was a revolutionary. de Menezes was an electrician trying to save up enough money to return to Brazil and start his own business. I am making a comparison between the Roman authorities of Jesus' time, and the British authorities of our time. When Herod and Pilate threw Christ back and forth on his judgement day neither one could find him guilty. Pilate washed his hands of the matter, and left it to the people to decide. When Blair and Blair threw it back and forth on the day after de Menezes was killed execution style, they were searching for a way to make de Menezes look guilty after he had been executed, and looking for a way to make their shoot-to-kill policy look like the right one.
The final judgement in Jesus' case was placed before the people whose recreation was to watch public executions. They judged that there was greater entertainment value in watching an innocent man die than a thug like Barrabas. In the de Menezes case one British newspaper came up with a solution. Shoot all bombers. Shoot all terrorists, shoot all suspected terrorists. This eye-for-an-eye type revenge comes from fear, powerlessness and terror in the wake of the London bombings. It may look barbaric to us now after six months; it did not appear so then.
Revenge Not Justice: This solution does not take under consideration the most important failing of the "war on terrorism." More harm has been done to innocent people who have been suspected of terrorism than direct and just sentencing has been meted out to actual terrorists. Shoot-to-kill-on-suspicion is the whole rationale for the war against Afghanistan and the war on Iraq.
Suspected terrorists have been imprisoned, tortured and killed without evidence, without legal representation, without a trial. How many innocent people have been killed? We'll never know. How many civilian homes, schools and hospitals have been bombed out of existence on suspicion that they were bases for terrorists and terrorist communications? We'll never know.
The difference is that Jean Charles de Menezes was executed in London before everyday people on their morning commute. Ordinary people have read and listened and watched their government struggling to find a justification for what the de Menezes family calls "an execution." The family said Jean Charles had acted as "training" for the security forces. They said by shooting dead 27-year-old Jean Charles de Menezes the police had learned the wrong course of action and were now using stun guns instead. Thus, de Menezes has become part of the "learning curve" of the Metropolitan Police Force, and the Blair government.
The case of Jean Charles de Menezes should demonstrate to the British and American people what is wrong about the war on terrorism. I would hope that people now understand what "due process of law" means, and what "innocent before proven guilty" means. I would hope that the Metropolitan Police Force now understands under what conditions deadly force can and should be used. I believe that Commander Cressida Dick should be relieved of office, as well as Police Chief Ian Blair. I believe the officers who executed de Menezes should be tried for negligent use of deadly force. But I expect none of this will happen.
So my hope must remain with the people, like those who witnessed the killing of an innocent man. My hope is that no one will ever forget Jean Charles de Menezes, who was killed on July 22, 2005. He was 27 years old. For me his death is symbolic of what the "War On Terrorism" is all about: the use of deadly force on suspicion of guilt, bad communication, sloppy surveillance, wrong intelligence, no co-ordination of law enforcement and security, no due process of law, civilian casualties, an ever-broadening scope of hysteria, fear and terror, and the effort of government to justify criminal acts in broad daylight and in the public view. The people have the power to change this: through their vote and through their voice, or they can sponsor and support it through their silence.
The Cover Up
Police changed Menezes log
Australian, Australia - January 30, 2006
LONDON: Undercover detectives altered a surveillance log to avoid blame for the death of Jean Charles de Menezes in a bungled counter-terrorist operation
Cover up claims in de Menezes shooting
ITN, UK - January 30, 2006
Police ‘faked evidence’ on Tube shooting
Gulf Times, Qatar - January 30, 2006
... Asad Rehman, the family’s spokesman, said these latest reports reinforced their belief that there had been a deliberate cover-up over de Menezes death
MENEZES SHOOTING: THE COVER-UP
Free Market News Network, FL - January 30, 2006
had been attributed to one overzealous British cop, is now looking like a cover-up. ... to shift the blame for the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes by British
Police cover-up claim in killing of de Menezes
Scotsman, United Kingdom - January 30, 2006
.officers launched a "blatant" cover-up in an attempt to conceal their fatal role in the shooting of the innocent Brazilian, Jean Charles de Menezes.