Northern Ireland

IRA inquests: European Court of Human Rights criticises UK government

Scene of Grew and McCaughey killings
Image caption Dessie Grew and Martin McCaughey were shot dead by the SAS in Loughgall in 1990

The European Court of Human Rights has criticised the UK government for failing to hold inquests into the deaths of two IRA men 23 years ago.

Martin McCaughey and Dessie Grew were shot dead by the SAS in County Armagh in a so-called shoot-to-kill incident.

They were both armed with AK47 rifles when they were shot more than 30 times.

The court ruled the government breached the European Convention on Human Rights, for what it called excessive delays in the investigative process.

'Lethal force'

The SAS unit opened fire on McCaughey and Grew at a farm shed near Loughgall, in October 1990.

At the time, the shed had been under surveillance as a suspected IRA arms dump.

Their families took their case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), complaining that the use of lethal force had not been absolutely necessary and that there had not been an independent police investigation into the shootings.

The families also complained that the government had breached Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, by failing to hold inquests into the circumstances of their deaths.

In its ruling on Tuesday, the ECHR agreed that the government's failure to hold inquests was a breach of Article 2.

However, the seven judges said they could not make a ruling on the families' other complaints as the killings still have to be dealt with by courts in Northern Ireland.

RUC allegations

The judges ruled that the UK government had also violated the European Convention on Human Rights in the case of John Hemsworth, a US national, who died from serious head injuries in July 1988.

His family claim he died from his injuries, after he was kicked and hit on the head with a truncheon by RUC officers during a riot in west Belfast six months earlier.

It was 13 years before an inquest was held into his death and the ECHR upheld his family's complaint that there had been an excessive delay on the part of the government.

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