Thursday, February 16, 2006

Army unit probed in Menezes inquiry

THE MINISTRY of Defence launched and internal inquiry last week into the role played by an elite army surveillance unit into the shooting of Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes in order to discover "if lessons can be learnt".
They say they are trying to discover how Menezes, an innocent man, came to be wrongly identified as a terrorist suspect. But the decision has raised questions about the role of military personnel on our streets.
The army surveillance unit comprise members of the Special Reconnaissance Regiment, who had been seconded to the Metropolitan Police to work with under-cover officers, monitoring the flats in south London where Menezes lived.
The Independent Police Commission has questioned the soldiers as part of its investigation into the shooting dead of Menezes at Stockwell Tube station last July.
Now the MoD has set up its own separate inquiry into the events leading up to the shooting. It is reviewing the procedures and command structures that allowed apparent surveillance failures to happen.
The Special Reconnaissance Regiment was formed in April 2005 and is based at SAS headquarters in Hereford. Its members are said to have developed specialist skills in the occupied north of Ireland. It is believed that one of the soldiers taking part in the surveillance of the south London flats was armed and that it was a soldier who incorrectly identified Menezes as an "IC one male" – the police term for a white man, when he left his flat.
During the surveillance one of the soldiers, who had to relieve himself against a tree, temporarily lost sight of Menezes, according to reports. This led to a series of communication problems.
One senior counter-terrorism expert commented: "I can’t understand why non-police personnel were used to do something that important. They won’t know police procedures. If you start using the army on the streets without a proper public debate it will end in disaster."