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   Case summaries      McCann v UK 18984/91

McCann v UK 18984/91 [1995] ECHR 31 European Court of Human Rights - Grand Chamber

The UK, Spanish and Gibraltar authorities were aware that the provisional IRA were planning a terrorist attack on Gibraltar. The target was believed to be the band and guard of the first Battalion of the Royal Anglian Regiment to take place during the ceremonial changing of the guard. There were armed officers on duty on the day who had been shown photos of the suspected terrorists. Two men and a woman were shot by officers. The officers believed the men were reaching in their pockets to detonate a bomb and the woman reaching in her handbag for the same reason. No weapons or detonating devices were in fact discovered. The soldiers admitted that they shot to kill but did so in order to prevent the destruction of more lives.


No violation of Art 2

The soldiers honestly believed, in the light of the information that they had been given, that it was necessary to shoot the suspects in order to prevent them from detonating a bomb and causing serious loss of life. The actions which they took, in obedience to superior orders, were thus perceived by them as absolutely necessary in order to safeguard innocent lives. The use of force was therefore justified under Art 2. A justification for Art 2 can be based on an honest belief which is perceived, for good reasons to be valid at the time but which subsequently turns out to be mistaken. To hold otherwise would impose an unrealistic burden on the state in the execution of their duty and perhaps to the detriment of their lives and those of others.

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