Lawyers Shred Claim That Troops Should be Above Law

By Paddy McGuffin (Morning Star)

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond welcomes blatantly bias report

A report claiming that British military actions could be undermined by human rights laws was slammed yesterday as little more than an exercise in shoring up governmental views.

Right-wing think tank Policy Exchange argued that Britain’s enemies could view the courtroom as a way of “paralysing” the armed forces in any future conflict.

But Leigh Day & Co solicitors, which has brought a number of high-profile cases against the Ministry of Defence, said the report was blatantly biased and appeared to have been written with the government’s full co-operation.

The publication of the report follows a Supeme Court ruling this year that damages claims could be brought against the MoD by the families of a number of British soldiers killed in Iraq, using legislation which covers negligence and human rights.

One of the report’s authors Tom Tugendhat, a former military assistant to the chief of the defence staff, said: “Over the past decade, legal steps based on the European Convention on Human Rights have undone safeguards Parliament drew up to ensure military commanders have the freedom of manoeuvre to make vital decisions on the ground.

“The armed forces neither are, nor should be, above or exempt from the law. But imposing civilian norms on the military is deeply misplaced.”

Leigh Day lawyer Martyn Day rejected the claims, saying: “The report states that the customs and practices of Britain’s armed forces are now under threat from the law.

“We would argue that it is the breaking of these laws which is the greatest threat to those who ‘risk all for their country.’

“We find it very disconcerting that the government of law and order seem so intent on desecrating the legal system, ignoring the safeguards the law provides for all individuals and continues to act unlawfully through its many departments including the MoD.”

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond welcomed the report and said challenges to combat immunity arising from recent court judgements “potentially throw open a wide range of military decisions to the uncertainty of litigation.”

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