Protecting Armed Forces personnel from litigation

We will ensure that British troops on military operations will in future operate under the primacy of the Law of Armed Conflict, to protect them from vexatious legal claims.

We believe that British troops must know that they have our support when they serve our nation, so we must tackle the vexatious legal claims that have recently undermined our Armed Forces and hindered our ability to fight wars.

 

We will introduce legislation to ensure that the Law of Armed Conflict has primacy and that laws which are intended to govern our peacetime affairs are not applied to our service personnel on military operations.

 

Our military commanders must have freedom of action on military operations and our veterans must be assured that their service is validated, recognised and honoured by the nation.

Background

The Law of Armed Conflict has lost its primacy in recent years and UK Armed Forces have been subject to rulings by British courts which have led to the law being weaponised against our Armed Forces.

It is illogical to apply improper extensions of human rights law when, like other Western nations, the Law of Armed Conflict is the appropriate and specific choice for military operations.

We have been clear that we need to end the unfair trials of people who served their country when no new evidence has been produced and when the accusations have already been exhaustively questioned in court.

 

Our solution

We will amend the Human Rights Act 1998 to specify that it doesn’t apply to issues – including any death in the Northern Ireland Troubles – that took place before the Act came into force in October 2000.

This restores the intended scope of the Act.

This will not affect ongoing prosecutions in court in Northern Ireland and is part of a wider series of action to achieve the finality of resolution.

We are considering establishing a ‘Legacy Commission’ as part of these initiatives, one of whose responsibilities will be to ensure that ongoing prosecutions remain consistent with our obligations under the HRA, especially Article 2.

We will further amend the Human Rights Act 1988 to limit its extra-territorial reach.

The Act should only apply within the territory of the UK.

We will enact legislation requiring derogation from the European Convention on Human Rights in relation to future military operations.

We will consider legislation that draws a clear line under the past.

Preventing new vexatious investigations, inquests and prosecutions from the Northern Ireland Troubles.

We will consider enacting a statute of limitations.

Preventing investigation or prosecution of allegations unless the court is satisfied that there is significant fresh evidence and that such a prosecution would be in the interests of justice.

Our commitment to our veterans is behind this manifesto promise.

We said we would take action on this issue and a Conservative majority will allow us to do so. This is overdue and we intend to put it right.

 

Conservative record

We have undertaken reviews of the processes relating to Northern Ireland Troubles related cases as well as historical investigations relating to recent operations such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

Both have now concluded and we are developing responses to the findings which will form part of the overall package on Historical Investigations.

We have recognised the Armed Forces Covenant in law.

We legislated to give the Armed Forces Covenant a statutory foundation, introducing a requirement for the Secretary of State for Defence to report annually to Parliament on progress in delivering Covenant commitments.  

We are investing £10 million annually in the Covenant Fund.

This supports Armed Forces communities in four areas: removing barriers to family life; extra support after service for those that need help; measures to integrate military and civilian communities; and non-core healthcare services for veterans.

We have also signed up to the Covenant as a Party.

In signing the Armed Forces Covenant we have committed – among other things – to striving to support the employment of Service spouses and partners; seeking to support employees who choose to be members of the Reserve forces, including by accommodating their training and deployment; and pro-actively marketing all vacancies to the veteran community. We will also offer serving and retired military personnel a discounted rate for Party Conference.