Anger as UK plans to suspend human rights laws during conflict
Rights groups have condemned Theresa May’s plan for the British military to opt out of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The British prime minister, who has long been pushing to scrap the human rights act, will announce plans to opt out from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), during the Conservative party conference.
Defending the move, May said earlier today: ‘Our troops, our men and women of our armed forces go out there and put their lives on the line in order to defend us… So I think it’s absolutely right that the government should say to our troops: ‘We are on your side.’”
May had previously called to “put an end to vexatious claims” against British troops, following a number of high profile cases over the actions of British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The government says the litigation has cost the Ministry of Defence more than £100 million since 2004.
By opting out of parts of the European Convention of Human Rights, British troops fighting abroad will be protected from lawsuits. However, the procedure of opting out, called “derogation”, does not include serious offences with respect to the right to life, prohibitions on torture, slavery and retrospective criminal penalties.
Rights groups who have criticised the move say that the majority of claims against the military were not vexatious and were connected to protections which could not be derogated, such as prohibition of torture.
Critics have also said that allegations against British troops are anything but “spurious nonsense” as there are perfectly valid and serious allegations of human rights abuse that have been prosecuted in the courts. The Ministry of Defence has already paid millions in compensation to victims of abuse in Iraq for a total of 326 cases.