Last week, the Prime Minister Theresa May and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced controversial plans for the military to opt out of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) during future conflicts.
Jocelyn Cockburn, civil liberties partner at Hodge Jones & Allen represented the families of soldiers killed in poorly armoured Snatch land rover vehicles in Iraq in a case that defines the legal obligations owed by the government to soldiers killed and injured on active service abroad. This ruling established for the first time that the European Convention on Human Rights applies to soldiers on the battlefield.
In response to the government new proposals she says:
“The government has billed this opt out from elements of the ECHR as a measure that is being taken to protect UK troops from potential lawsuits, a line picked up by many in the press. The reality is that far from giving troops additional protections, the proposals would in fact remove vital protections from soldiers on the frontline. This is entirely intentional on the part of the Government and it is disgraceful that they have not been open about their intentions. Our soldiers deserve more than this.
“The recent Chilcot report into the Iraq conflict found ‘woeful’ equipment failures. It is clear that vital equipment – such as armoured vehicles – were not fit for purpose. Families of soldiers who died in Iraq because of poor equipment have fought a battle to establish human rights protections for soldiers. This fight was successful in the Supreme Court in 2013 and establishes a duty on the MoD to take reasonable steps to protect soldiers from known risks (article 2 ECHR – the right to life). The need for these protections is clear and yet having lost the court battle over human rights protections, the MoD, is now trying to find another way of avoiding it’s duty to protect our soldiers when they are deployed abroad to fight on our behalf”.
The armed forces and the public at large deserve to know the truth about what the implications of this decision could be.”