Vernon Coaker MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, has responded to the Defence Select Committee’s report on ‘UK Armed Forces Personnel and the Legal Framework for Future Operations’, as follows:
“We share the Defence Select Committee’s concern about the growing number of legal challenges against UK Service personnel and the Ministry of Defence.
“A clear tension exists between the Law of Armed Conflict and Human Rights Law, and we must ensure this does not negatively impact future military operations or the welfare of our Forces and their families. Any resolution must balance the defence of our country with the rights of those Armed Forces personnel who protect it.”
“Labour believes the next Strategic Defence and Security Review will have to provide clarity about these issues and we urge the Government to look at these complex legal matters in the months ahead.”
We agree that any resolution must balance the defence of our country with the rights of Armed Forces personnel who protect it, but believe there an urgent need for a close examination of the Human Rights Act in the context of military operations – and an urgent need to strip away legal aid from non-combatants.
Just last week we saw solicitor Phil Shiner’s cases against the British Army on behalf of Iraqi civilians collapse. If Shiner – and his like – have no funding, then they will not be able to take on and run these spurious cases.
The simple answer is to exclude Human Rights legislation on the battlefield on the basis that the overriding ability to operate an effective military and protect our country is much more important.
by Hilary Meredith and Grant Evatt