BRITISH ARMY VETERANS PROSECUTIONS – DEFENCE SECLECT COMMITTEE REPORT
KRW LAW LLP is instructed by a number of families whose loved ones were killed by the British Army during the Conflict in Northern Ireland.
Today the House of Commons Defence Select Committee has published a Report called Drawing a Line: Protecting Veterans by a Statute of Limitations. The Report examines prosecutions arising from the Conflicts in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Committee members state:
“We have long been greatly concerned by the increasing encroachment of litigation into the sphere of military engagements, and by the cycles of investigation and re-investigation of current and former Service personnel for alleged incidents from many years ago.”
The Committee makes two core recommendations:
- A presumption against prosecution after 10 years have lapsed unless there is compelling new evidence
- Amendment to restrict the scope of the European Convention on Human Rights and to ‘restore’ the intention of the UK Parliament
Given the current political atmosphere on this issue the position of the Report is unsurprising. It accords with recent statements from both Conservative Party Leader candidates. However, in relation to Northern Ireland, the Report dangerously interferes with the expectations created under the Belfast-Good Friday Agreement 1998 and would be an imposition of a de factoamnesty for former members of the British Army (and by extension other members of the Security Forces and those agents and informers they handled and directed).
In addition, the proposal to amend The Human Rights Act 1998 is a very dangerous suggestion and a direct interference with the jurisdiction of both the Convention and the European Court of Human Rights and the Council of Europe, the status of which is important to the out-workings of the peace process in Northern Ireland.
The ‘Legacy’ prosecutions of former British soldiers in Northern Ireland have been sanctioned by independent law officers based upon evidential thresholds and endorsed by the judiciary. The current proposals must be resisted as must political interference in the due process of law and criminal justice.