Last week, over fifty campaigners joined the family and friends of Jimmy Mubenga in a vigil on the first anniversary of his death.
Jimmy died on 12 October 2010, after being restrained by private security guards from the company G4S on a BA flight at Heathrow airport during a deportation attempt to Angola. Jimmy’s wife, five children and his wider family are still waiting, one year on, to see if the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) will charge the three officers involved.
The vigil, held outside the offices of the Crown Prosecution Service, was attended by Angolans and activists and supported by campaigning organisations INQUEST, Medical Justice and No Borders. On the same day, a letter in support of the family was published in the Guardian, expressing concerns about the number of incidents involving the use of force during deportations which had resulted in injuries since Jimmy’s death. It surmised that ‘It can only be a matter of time before another family is forced to suffer in the same way that Jimmy Mubenga’s family currently are.’ The signatories also ‘urge[d] the police and CPS to conduct a thorough and robust investigation so as to ensure that the G4S officers are properly accountable to the law as are any other members of the public.’ And in a moving interview, conducted earlier in the week on the anniversary, Jimmy’s wife, Makenda Kambana, spoke to the Guardian about losing Jimmy and the effect on the family.
Helen Shaw from INQUEST, which assists the families of those who died in custody, said: ‘As we pause to join Jimmy Mubenga’s family and friends in a moment of remembrance we must also reflect on the fact that Jimmy’s death followed a pattern of complaints about the use of excessive force against people being deported. The lengthy and ongoing investigation into his death must not mean that there is a lack of public scrutiny into the wider concerns about abuses and dangerous methods of restraint used on people being forcibly removed from the country that result in the risk of further deaths and serious injuries.’
Emma Ginn from Medical Justice, which documented nearly 300 injuries sustained by people during the deportation process in its report Outsourcing Abuse told IRR News: ‘Even after Jimmy’s death, the UKBA has failed to demonstrate any concrete changes that will prevent further abuse and death. Our volunteer doctors continue to document injuries sustained during forced removals. The only decent course of action is to at least suspend the use of force until all investigations into Jimmy’s death have concluded and urgently needed lessons are learned.’
‘Jimmy’s death is a tragic example of the brutality of the deportation machine’, said a spokesperson for No Borders, ‘With ministers competing to appear “tough on immigration” and private contractors that see detention and deportation a lucrative “market”, it is not that surprising that people are reporting abuse on a regular basis.’
IRR News contacted the CPS to find out why the wait. The reply was hardly illuminating: ‘The early advice file was received by the CPS on 1st April 2011. The suspects were interviewed in March 2011 and the Pathologist’s Report was completed on 6th September 2011. As you are aware, it is standard procedure for the Crown Prosecution Service to request further evidence and statements after receiving the initial early advice file of evidence from the police. It is common that new issues arise as material is reviewed and these need to be addressed. Currently, further statements are being taken and experts have been instructed to also assist further. No decision on charge can be taken until the investigation is complete. It is difficult to provide a detailed timetable; however, the potential suspects are currently on police bail until December. The Police and CPS have met with the family and are keeping them informed of progress.’
And so the family and friends of Jimmy Mubenga wait – and wait. They have already waited a year for the police and CPS to finish their investigations and then decide if anyone will be charged in connection with Jimmy’s death. But they will have to wait for even longer.
Read an IRR News story: ‘Call for justice for Jimmy Mubenga’
Read an IRR News story: ‘Justice for Jimmy Mubenga’
Read an IRR News story: ‘G4S whistleblowers confirm detainees’ allegation’
Guardian letters page: ‘Vigil for an end to forced deportations’
Guardian interview: ‘Jimmy Mubenga’s widow on her fight for justice’