This briefing addresses JUSTICE’s concerns with the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill. JUSTICE recognises the unique role and status of the UK’s armed forces, and the difficulties faced by service personnel. However, this Bill fails to support current and former service personnel whilst also depriving victims of serious crime to proper access to appropriate remedies. JUSTICE believes that this Bill is deficient in two important respects.
• First, the Bill would damage the standing of the armed forces by acting contrary to established legal norms – both domestic and international. It does so by introducing a threshold which would be near-impossible to meet where claims for torture and other serious crimes are made after five years. By affording effective impunity for UK overseas military operations, the Bill signals that, rather than adhering to a strict human rights framework in the rules of engagement, the UK is prepared to relax, or worse, disregard, protection from torture and inhuman and degrading treatment.
• Second, the Bill would restrict the ability of service people to bring claims for personal injury and death during the course of overseas actions. Rather than protecting and enhancing the rights of service personnel, it would weaken their key avenue for proper compensation. The Bill would serve only to shield the Government.
For these reasons, as expanded in the briefing, JUSTICE strongly resists the passage of this Bill and urges parliamentarians to vote against this proposal.
20 January 2021
Our Briefing for Second Reading