Amnesty International has called for an inquiry after evidence that a secret British Army hit squad carried out shoot-to-kill missions at the height of The Troubles was revealed.
Members of the covert Military Reaction Force (MRF) broke their 40-year silence in a BBC Panorama documentary last night (Thurs) to admit they shot terrorist suspects on sight in Northern Ireland - whether they were armed or not.
The BBC probe unearthed evidence that the shadowy undercover unit killed at least two people, Daniel Rooney and Patrick McVeigh, and injured 13 more people during a five-month period in 1972.
According to the documentary, members of the elite plainclothes unit didn't believe military restrictions on opening fire applied to them and used to cruise republican areas of west Belfast, gunning down IRA members, whether they were armed or not.
The shocking revelations have prompted calls from Amnesty International to launch a full-blown inquiry into what it described as "human rights violations and abuses."
Amnesty Northern Ireland director, Patrick Corrigan, said: "The revelations in Panorama underline our call for the UK government to establish a new, over-arching mechanism to investigate human rights violations and abuses in Northern Ireland, whether carried out by paramilitary groups or the security forces.
"Victims and bereaved family members have a right to truth and justice.
"Such a process must focus not just on those who pulled the trigger, but also those in positions of authority who pulled the strings."
Successive British governments have repeatedly denied a shoot-to-kill policy was operated by security forces during The Troubles.
However, the programme provided evidence that the MRF's 40-strong unit carried out drive-by shootings of nationalists manning barricades to keep out loyalists.
According to the Irish Mirror, one former MRF soldier said: "We were not there to act like an army unit, we were there to act like a terror group."
Highly-trained MRF members were handpicked from elite ranks of the army and were told that they officially didn't exist as they were tasked with hunting down and killing IRA members, according to the programme.
Another former MRF member is quoted as saying: "If you had a player who was a well-known shooter who carried out quite a lot of assassination, it would have been very simple, he had to be taken out."
Some MRF members would even go undercover as road-sweepers or down-and-out alcoholics during their mission, it was claimed.
Tony Le Tissier, a major in the Royal Military Police, said: "They were playing at being bandit, they were meant to be sort of IRA outlaws.
"That's why they were in plain clothes, operating plain vehicles and using a Thompson sub-machine gun."
It is not known how many killings the unit carried out, as much of the documentary evidence is understood to have been destroyed.
However, among those they killed in May 1972, was father-of-six, Patrick McVeigh, whose daughter, Patricia, said: "We want the truth. We don't want to stop until we get the truth."
And Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams added: "The BBC programme shines a light on one aspect of Britain's dirty war in Ireland.
"The existence of the MRF and its activities have been known for many years, but the programme contains new information and provides a fresh insight into the use by the British government of counter-gangs and secret military units."
Here’s a clip from the BBC: