Nobody, not even soldiers, should be above the law ~ LegalVoice.
At the start of the week, Theresa May promised to close down the ‘industry of vexatious allegations’ against British troops over claims of abuse in Iraq. The extent of bogus claims is open to debate. As the former chief legal adviser for the army in Iraq, Lt Col Nicholas Mercer pointed out on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, there have been 326 Iraqi cases settled by the Government to date, at a cost of £20 million. See here on the Justice Gap. Liberty’s new director Martha Spurrier took on Tory MP Tom Tugendhat, a former Army officer who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, who argued in Daily Telegraph that ‘human rights should stop at out border’. ‘Funding false claims undermines morale, while, more dangerously still, corrupting a serviceman to bring a case against the government over a deployment would put our foreign policy and national security in the hands of judges,’ he reckoned.
‘Tugendhat wrote, quite rightly, that battlefields are not town centres,’ Spurrier countered in the Guardian. ‘But his suggestion that they are being treated as such is a lazy and dangerous myth.’ Nobody, not even British soldiers, should be above the law, she argued
‘We all remember the appalling scandal of Abu Ghraib, the US military prison where Iraqi men were tortured and mistreated. We also remember the killing of Baha Mousa, a man – with a young family – found in the wrong place at the wrong time, and beaten to death for it by British forces. Without the Human Rights Act, which forced the government to hold an inquiry, there would have been no investigation, no accountability, no justice.’
‘Human rights sometimes get a bad press,’ Law Society president Robert Bourns pointed out in a letter to the Telegraph. ‘But our adherence to those principles sets us, and our Armed Forces, apart from countries that reject fairness, freedom or justice.
‘The MoD has a duty of care to its soldiers, which has been upheld by the European Convention on Human Rights. The Baha Mousa and Al-Sweady inquiries, as well as the Smith case, all helped to ensure that soldiers are properly trained and equipped when they are sent to war. The ECHR has also helped create fairer and safer conditions for members of the armed forces.’
Law Society president Robert Bourns