The Times is reporting that Theresa May is under pressure to strengthen a plan to protect troops from spurious legal claims after warnings that it will not protect soldiers already being pursued.
The prime minister has pledged to opt out of international human rights laws when Britain goes to war in future following an avalanche of claims after the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The proposals would involve Britain temporarily withdrawing from parts of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Lord Richards of Herstmonceux, a former head of the armed forces, warned that the plans would do nothing to protect “many hundreds of disciplined and loyal” soldiers currently facing spurious claims.
“This issue is critical to armed forces morale now and into the future,” he said during a debate in the Lords yesterday. “A failure to act retrospectively will lead to distrust and cynicism.”
He was among a number of former senior military figures, ministers and judges to call on Mrs May to go further in protecting troops.
Earl Howe, a defence minister, said legislating to end current legal claims would “compromise the principle of legal certainty”. He added that the government had a duty to investigate credible allegations of offences by troops.
Earlier this year, I provided evidence to the Defence Sub Committee’s inquiry into the support offered by the Ministry of Defence to former and serving military personnel who are subject to judicial process.
At the Inquiry, MPs heard how investigators from the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (Ihat) are turning up on family doorsteps and at barracks’ gates demanding information or threatening arrest.
In one harrowing incident they appeared at an ex-girlfriend’s house and interviewed her on whether her former partner had tattoos, was abusive or talked in his sleep. In another, they turned up at a barracks and threatened to arrest an officer despite the fact he was acquitted by an internal probe 10 years earlier. Even witnesses have been threatened with arrest, as the probe into alleged Iraq War wrongdoing has got completely out of hand.
I have since written to Secretary of State for Defence, Michel Fallon, to issue notice that we will be bringing a Judicial Review to put in place a framework of support for service personnel and veterans facing judicial process. The framework includes a formal apology for failing to support those accused.
I am calling on the Ministry of Defence to guarantee the following:
1 – The right to a framework of help and support for serving and ex-military personnel to include, Chain of Command, welfare and medical support.
2 – The right to independent legal advice.
3 – The right for funding for such advice.
4 – The right to a fair trial.
5 – Time limits be imposed on these cases.
6 – The rights promised to military personnel under the military covenant to be upheld.