European Court dismisses Omagh bombers appeal

Liam Campbell, left, Michael McKevitt, right
Liam Campbell, left, Michael McKevitt, right

The European Court of Human Rights has dismissed an appeal by two men found liable for Omagh bomb who said the civil trial against them was unfair.

In its decision announced today the European Court of Human Rights “unanimously declared the applications inadmissible. The decision is final”.

Press Eye - Belfast Northern Ireland. 8th June 2009. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye.  The Omagh bomb civil action comes to an end at Belfast High Court today with Mr Justice Morgan ruling in the families favor.  The civil action was taken against five men believed to be related to the August 1998 Real IRA bomb, which killed 29 people - plus unborn twins. The judge found Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt was liable for the attack along with Liam Campbell, Colm Murphy and Seamus Daly.  Michael Gallagher(centre) who lost his son pictured outside the High Court with other families speaking to the press.

Press Eye - Belfast Northern Ireland. 8th June 2009. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye. The Omagh bomb civil action comes to an end at Belfast High Court today with Mr Justice Morgan ruling in the families favor. The civil action was taken against five men believed to be related to the August 1998 Real IRA bomb, which killed 29 people - plus unborn twins. The judge found Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt was liable for the attack along with Liam Campbell, Colm Murphy and Seamus Daly. Michael Gallagher(centre) who lost his son pictured outside the High Court with other families speaking to the press.

Prior to today’s decision, a victims’ campaigner had called their latest attempted bid to overturn the civil ruling as an “abuse” of laws designed to protect human rights.

Nobody was ever convicted for the 1998 attack, but victims brought a successful civil action for damages against Michael McKevitt and Liam Campbell, convicted Real IRA men.

Subsequent appeals by them to overturn the outcome of the civil action were dismissed by the Court of Appeal in 2011 and by the Supreme Court in 2012.

But McKevitt and Campbell told the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg that a large part of the evidence relied on by the plaintiffs was provided by a witness who did not attend the trial, and could not be cross-examined, FBI agent David Rupert.

Their lawyers had appealed to the ECHR that they were therefore denied their human right to a fair trial as the case against them was “fundamentally criminal in nature” but they were not given the protections necessary.

They argued that the use of Rupert’s “hearsay evidence” also violated their right to a fair civil trial.

But the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) today dismissed the complaints.

In a statement it said: “In regard to the claim that the judge should have applied a criminal standard of proof, the court found that this was not necessary because the proceedings had been for a civil claim for damages; there had been no criminal charge.

“In regard to the evidence of the absent FBI agent, the Court found in particular that the judge had fully considered the need for appropriate safeguards given the witness’s absence; that the defendants had had an adequate opportunity to challenge the agent’s evidence with their own; and that the judge had had due regard to the appropriate considerations when deciding what weight he could attach to the evidence of an absent witness.

“In light of this, the Court found that the national court’s findings could not be said to have been arbitrary or unreasonable. The applicants had not demonstrated that their trial was unfair, and the court dismissed their applications.”

Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan was killed in the RIRA atrocity, said the men concerned have benefited enough from the courts compared to victims of terrorism.

On August 15 1998, a 500lb bomb exploded in Omagh, killing 29 people, as well as two unborn children, and injuring over 300.

It was the single worst atrocity of the Troubles.