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Justice--Lessons From Northern Ireland? (From Policing in Central and Eastern Europe: Dilemmas of Contemporary Criminal Justice, P 464-471, 2004, Gorazd Mesko, et al., eds. -- See NCJ-207973)

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2004
8 pages

This paper focuses on the prevalence of killings by officers of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and the British Army in Northern Ireland in a systemic abuse of citizens' human rights, and it identifies the causes and efforts to address them.


The abusive use of lethal force by the RUC is evident in planned "shoot-to-kill" operations, the excessive use of force in the maintenance of public order, individual action by armed members of the RUC and British Army, collusion with loyalists in planning killings, and actions by loyalists acting alone while security forces cover up the killings. There is no independent mechanism for holding officers of the security forces accountable for their use of lethal force. Existing law is inadequate in defining how the police should use lethal force, and the criminal justice system apparently does not have the resources nor the will to control police use of lethal force. A frequent scenario for police killings is the use of informers to target persons believed to be terrorists, and the practice is for the police to conduct a virtual execution without engaging in the traditional justice system processing of accused persons. This system of law enforcement has been challenged by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights; however, regional human rights systems such as the ECHR have not been effective in stopping systematic human rights abuses. 32 references

Date Published: September 1, 2004