Thursday, August 11, 2005

Tourists put off by police shooting

The shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes continues to cause controversy as media outlets around the world discuss the merits of a ‘shoot to kill’ policy. The Washington Post's editorial on Wednesday described the shooting as ‘HORRIFIC’, but “if lethal force is necessary to stop a suicide bomber, it has to be a killing shot away from the torso -- that is, a shot to the head.” It also had its concerns. “As the London tragedy shows, accurately identifying a suicide bomber with split-second timing is difficult. And shoot-to-kill mistakes are irreversible.”
Something not lost on the Brazilian family and many others around the world. The Pakistani Daily Times questioned why de Menezes had not been stopped earlier.” What were the police ‘specialists’ thinking of when they allowed a suspected bomber to board a bus and to sit among the passengers for fifteen minutes? Since Jean apparently stood and waited at the No 2 bus stop, would it not have been more intelligent to accost him then and there?”
The Sunday Times [31st July] reported in a article entitled ‘Shoot to kill without warning’, “Police clearly believed that de Menezes might have been a suicide bomber, even though he was not carrying a rucksack. This raises a key question: why was de Menezes allowed to board a bus in Tulse Hill and travel to Stockwell, if officers thought that his body might be rigged with explosives? It also raises questions about the new shoot-to-kill protocol. The protocol — which is specific to individual targets — can be put into force only when police have reason to believe that a suspect may be carrying a bomb. The order can be issued only by a “gold commander” at Scotland Yard.” So what was it that caused police to believe he was a suicide bomber. “The man, according to the police, was suspect because of his “clothing and behaviour”. He had been followed from a house that had been under surveillance. When he was challenged at Stockwell, he ignored instructions and ran. He had vaulted over the ticket barrier and was wearing a dark bulky jacket that could disguise a bomb.” The Sunday Times reported. He had in fact been wearing a denim jacket. “One witness described de Menezes as an Asian with a beard and wires coming out of his torso. The truth is more mundane. De Menezes, an electrician, was travelling to north London to fix a fire alarm.” Having left a ‘terrorist’s house’ and entered a tube station with ‘wires’ hanging out of his jacket, plain clothes police moved in. Lee Ruston, 32, was at the bottom of the escalator that de Menezes ran down. He believes that he heard every word said by officers. According to him, officers did not say the word “police” or offer de Menezes the prospect of arrest. “I heard a voice shouting ‘get on the floor, just get on the floor’. Another voice said the same, ‘get on the floor’. I then heard the crack of gunshots,” he said. After the de Menezes family disputed some of the details, the Home Office hastened to inform the public that he had overstayed his visa and may have had a false stamp in his passport. Many have questioned the intention of this press release “What point were they trying to make? That De Menezes was a foreigner out to take advantage of us? That he belonged to a class of people whose human rights need not be respected?” was one reaction on Counter Punch. And on London Tonight, London’s local news magazine programme, police criticized the coverage the story had generated. One Brazilian Paper, Folha De Sao Paulo, were quoted as saying, “There is a band of 007 type police in plain clothes, with a licence to kill, seeking to avenge British honour with blood”. Tour operators have said the shooting has even effected tourism. There had been “quite a lot of very bad press around the world. A lot is in accurate and ill informed and we’ve been doing our best to make sure that the right message gets out there, and so it is reported correctly in those counties and that people aren’t put off coming to the country or are afraid of the reaction to the police force here in London” said Stephen Dowd, Chief Exec., UK Inbound. But bookings are down, and particularly from France, Germany, Italy and Japan. But visitors from the US weren’t put off, “It happens every day in America, you just shrug it off” said one American tourist.
[00:06 GMT 11/08/2005]

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