UN set to investigate Gibraltar shootings

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The Independent Online

Another embarrassing investigation into the Special Air Service killing of the three IRA terrorists in Gibraltar is threatening to engulf the Government, this time by the United Nations.

The families of the three are asking the UN's special rapporteur on "extra- judicial, summary or arbitrary executions" to investigate the 1988 killings.

The move will further infuriate ministers, still outraged at last week's condemnation by the European Court of Human Rights, which concluded that the killings were unlawful and that the trio could and should have been arrested.

While the rapporteur, Bacre Waly Ndiaye, does not have binding judicial powers, a damning UN investigation would be very damaging to a government anxious to defend it human rights record.

It is almost certain he will agree to the inquiry. He is already looking into three individual killings in Northern Ireland - including the loyalist shooting of the solicitor Pat Finnucane, a case in which it has been suggested that the terrorists were acting in collusion with intelligence personnel.

The families of the Gibraltar IRA unit have turned to the UN, because they maintain that - despite the Strasbourg judgment - a "cover-up at the highest level" has still blocked a thorough investigation.

The use of Public Interest Immunity certificates - effectively gagging orders signed by ministers - has prevented investigation into anything other than the immediate events leading up to the killings on the Rock. The longer-term planning of the operation by military and security service intelligence, including a crucial meeting of ministers which sanctioned calling in the SAS, have never been examined - either by the inquest into deaths or by the human rights judges. The families maintain that it would disclose a plot to kill the three - a scenario ruled out by the European Court.

Neither has anyone heard evidence from the Spanish police whose account of tailing the three to the border and, effectively, handing them over to the British authorities, flatly contradicts the official account that one of the trio, Sean Savage, drove what was believed to be a "bomb car" on to the Rock unnoticed.

Ever since Savage, Mairead Farrell, and Daniel McCann were brought down in a hail of bullets on 6 March 1988, doubts over the official version of their deaths have haunted the Government.

Ministers had hoped that the European Court would have the last word on the matter. But it now seems certain to rumble on.

Yesterday, Niall Farrell, brother of Mairead, said: "We simply want the whole truth. The UN, we hope, can get to the bottom of this scandal, which we firmly believe leads to the heart of the British Establishment."