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Remember Jimmy Mubenga, 1964-2010

Tenth anniversary vigil

5pm, Monday 12 October 2020

Bonn Square, Oxford

In a message read out at the vigil, Oxford City Council’s Migrant Champion, Cllr Hosnieh Djafari-Marbini said:

“There has been no justice for Jimmy Mubenga, killed by G4S guards whilst being forcibly deported. He uttered those words “I can’t breathe” repeatedly. The inquest found a verdict of unlawful killing and despite this no justice has been forthcoming. Our immigration policies are based in an inhumane corporate world where brutality is inherent and justice and dignity are denied to countless others on a daily basis.

“The pandemic has made it very clear to us that we are only as safe as our most vulnerable neighbour. The inhumane and unjust hostile environment shames and affects us all. It’s time that we demanded an end to this and stood loud and proud with migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. We are them and they are us.”

On 12 October 2010, Jimmy Mubenga was a healthy 46-year-old Angolan man married to Adrienne Makenda Kambana and with five children aged from one to 17 years old. He had been in the UK from 1994. In 2006, he was convicted of actual bodily harm. Although he had served his time, on that day he was being deported as part of the government’s unjust ‘double punishment’ policy to deport time-served prisoners without a British passport.

Jimmy Mubenga was killed by three G4S guards on a British Airways aircraft flight number 777 at Heathrow airport as it prepared to fly to Angola. He resisted the unjust separation from his family. As the guards responded by forcing his head down, in a technique they called ’carpet karaoke’, Jimmy called out “I can’t breathe”, “They’re going to kill me”, “Help me!”. Not one passenger or BA staff member came to his aid. The multinational company G4S and the G4S guards on zero-hours contracts stood to lose money if the deportation was not completed.

In April 2011 G4S lost the deportation ’escort’ contract to Tascor (Reliance).

In July 2012, the Crown Prosecution Service said it had decided not to charge anyone in connection with the death.

At the inquest at Isleworth Crown Court in west London, three eminent medical specialists said the cause of death was cardio-respiratory failure caused by restraint. On 9 July 2013, the inquest jury found that Jimmy had been ‘unlawfully killed’.

After the inquest, Deborah Coles, co-director of the monitoring group Inquest, said: ‘The enormous sadness of this death was that it was the inevitable consequence of a privatised removals service that was out of control and where the duty of care and the wellbeing of deportees were undermined in the pursuit of profit.’ 

On 20 March 2014, the CPS announced its decision to prosecute the three G4S guards for manslaughter, but not G4S for corporate manslaughter.

At the Old Bailey trial, the judge imposed reporting restrictions which prevented any media reporting of the inquest jury’s ‘unlawful killing’ verdict, or the virulently racist phone texts and other evidence of racism on the part of the G4S guards. The jury reached its verdict in ignorance of both of these aspects. On 16 December 2016, the jury found G4S guards Stuart Tribelnig, Colin Kaler and Terrence Hughes not guilty.

As of 2013, there had been 12 ‘unlawful killing’ verdicts at inquests involving the deaths in state custody since 1990 – of Jimmy Mubenga, Ian Tomlinson, Mikey Powell, Robin Goodenough, Harry Stanley, Roger Sylvester, Christopher Alder, James Ashley, Alton Manning, Ibrahima Sey, David Ewin, Shiji Lapite, Richard O’Brien, Joy Gardner, Leon Patterson, and Omasase Lumumba – but no convictions of any of their killers. By 2012, the monitoring group Inquest had documented 950 deaths in custody in the previous 22 years, without a single manslaughter conviction.

Oxford Against Immigration Detention


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