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Question/Comment
28 September:   Agreed that our soldiers do perform herioc acts, but the fact remains that there are a lot of bad apples doing cowardly and illegal acts. Panorama last night was on the point. The criticisms by Lord Goldsmith and Phil Shiner show that the military justice system has to go. Any opportunity, no matter how small, for the commanders to obstruct or interfere in an investigation must be removed. Delaying investigations for 5 weeks is tantamount to completely scuppering any investigation and looks like an attempt to pervert the course of justice. If this is being officially sanctioned or carried out by senior officers then the problem is endemic. If that is the case, then the system has got to change. It will be interesting to see if Phil Shiner is right and that more prosecutions will follow.   Tess
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Delaying an investigation for 5 weeks is extraordinary. The result was that the military was in no position to refute the accusations of the families and other critics. The battle concerned was, I believe, only the second occasion since the second world war that our soldiers had fixed bayonets and charged into hand-to hand combat against superior numbers. An incredibly brave act. However, the way the matter was handled later is what is the subject of concern. It was an egregious example of the army snatching defeat from the jaws of victory by failing to understand that the world has changed and that there is more accountability today than ever before. Not having the wit to appreciate that the press - sometimes hostile - will be watching and reporting, and that families of injured or killed victims will speak to the press to complain about the treatment of their loved ones, is naive in the extreme and shows that commanders need to "get real". The failure to allow the SIB to investigate really deflected the eye from the heroics of the battle to the allegation of cover up. It is the obduracy of some military commanders, even in this more ECHR enlightened age, to accept that they are accountable for the acts of their officers and men that is one of the biggest threats to military reputation. The decisions about when an investigation starts, and who does it, and how, are not matters for the chain of command. They are decisions for the police to take. There are senior officers who failed to understand that fact. That is deeply worrying and is something the army must address urgently. Values and Standards provides some useful guidance to them!       Aspals
26 September:  The call to hold a Gaza style inquiry into killings in Afghanistan is another attempt to dirty the names of our troops. While the Grauniad and its like minded readers rattle on there is little coverage in that paper about the heroics of our soldiers, sometimes in saving Afghani civilians, which is the real tale of what our soldiers are like. The flaw in any inquiry like the one called for is that it will not be impartial. The inquirers will start out trying to prove a point. Nor will the Taliban co operate in the process. What about the war crimes committed by Taliban. Terrible atrocities are carried out by them in the name of their god, involving the cold blooded killings of innocents, even using women and children as bomb carriers. Somehow I doubt they will co operate. Putting soldiers on trial before an international court is not the answer. The inquiry sounds like another excuse for some fat cat human rights lawyers to earn even more cash at our expense.    Baz
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30 August:  Wow. I didn't mean to kill the Sounding Board with my last post.    Richie
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Not to worry, Ritchie. I suspect the "silence" is more to do with summer hols - or a lack of things to talk about - or perhaps stunned silence at the depth of proposed defence cuts.       Aspals
10 August:  If the co op refused to serve a woman in a burka wouldn't that be racial prejudice? So how come they can get away with prejudice against a soldier just cos he's in uniform?    Richie
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2 August:  chinless wonders this lot just like the last lot. i remember it was the tories that sacked thousands of sqaddis in the 90s. we lost a lot of good men with valuable skills. then the labour lot came in and brown sold off the gold reserves and now the tories are taking the great out of britain turning our army into a third rate organisation. next they ll hit the training budget to save even moire money.    pete
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28 July:   I see that those champions of the nation's freedoms, the Tories, have come up with the latest inspired proposal to cut costs in the army which is to reduce manpower by 30,000, as it is the costliest element of the defence budget. I wonder how long it will be before it dawns on these terribly bright chaps (who have more in common with the accountancy profession than leaders of the nation that used to be a super power capable of standing up for itself in the world) that the very essence of an army is its soldiers. You see, Mr Cameron, armies fight other armies, on the ground, face to face, sometimes at close quarter.
Just imagine owning a Ferrari and letting the chap next door, who has never driven a car in his life but who has read a lot about them, tinker with the engine. That is what is happening with our defence forces. None of these politicians has done a day's service in the armed forces, yet they profess to know precisely how they operate - and they tinker, and tinker and tinker....    Anthony
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23 July:   I'm not an apologist for war, but I don't agree with Briony about quitting Afghanistan before the conditions are right. Arguments about whether going into Iraq or Afghanistan was the right thing to do are irrelevant now. The question is when should we leave. To pack up our bags and go, just because the Tories want to reduce the size of the army to save money is not the best reason. Nearly 400 soldiers have lost their lives in Afghanistan, with many, many more who suffered severe wounding, losing limbs. If we retreat before the country is made stable, which I thought was the whole point of going in, then all of that suffering will be for nothing. Any grave decision involving our troops should not be purely political, Treasury driven. It's more of a military decision.   Tess
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23 July:  The courts cock it all up again. If the UN said that Kosovo belonged to Yugoslavia, how come the UN court can decide the opposite? Who can blame the Serbs if they give it another go. The only thing propping up the Greater Albanian state of Kosovo is the backing of the US and that's what keeps the Serbs at bay. I gather that the majority of the judges were from states which recognised Kosovo. So the judgement is political and not legal. By the way I like the idea of Group 4 (army). Where can I join.    Alan
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23 July:  It's not just Cyprus that is likely to be affected by the ICJ decision. What about the Basque region in northern Spain, the breakaway republics in Georgia, Moldova and Azerbaijan, the large ethnic groups in Romania (2 million Hungarians) and UK (about 1.8 million Muslims)? This judgment encourages independence. How the ICJ (the UN's court) UN can pass this judgment is strange when all the resolutions the Security COuncil passed respected the territorial integrity of Serbia and recognised Kosovo as part of it. Is this another example of the judges doing their own thing to p*** off the politicians?    Pegasus
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23 July:   I have an idea how the government can save billions on the armed forces: abolish the lot and give the contract to Group 4. They can then set up sub-divisions of, say, Group 4 (Army), Group 4 (Navy) and Group 4 (Air). Overnight the government will have shuffled pieces of paper around the Treasury and cut the armed forces to zero. If you think that suggestion is crazy, I would suggest it is no crazier than what they are currently talking about doing. This government, like the Tory government before, is the wolf in sheep's clothing when it comes to defence. The savagery with which Tories attacked the armed forces in the early 90's, capitalising on a so-called peace dividend that never was, is only matched by the wielding of the butcher's knife of the present lot. Yet, they have managed sufficient sleight of hand to portray themselves as the party that is strong on defence. We seem to fall for it every time.    Anthony
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22 July:  I know I won't be popular for saying it but I am pleased that we will be pulling out of Afghanistan sooner rather than later. Enough soldiers have died and we should avoid more deaths. We should stop interfering in the affairs of other countries and leave them to their own devices. It is not our concern. The former head of MI5 has even said that the invasion of Iraq actually made matters worse for this country and the terrorist threat we faced. Nick Clegg was right about that war, it was illegal. Afghanistan is not our business. Let's leave quickly.    Briony
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22 July:   Its the old old story that the enemy ignores rules of combat but our squaddies get hung out to dry with endless inquiries and court cases encouraged by blood sucking lawyers (sorry Aspals no offence). Those boys deserve posthumous awards and the cowards that shot them should rot in hell. Looking at the way the government is behaving as Thinners pointed out it really does make me wonder whether I'm losing my mind or the government and ambulance chasing lawyers have lost theirs. I suppose the lawyers will always encourage an argument after all the bigger the case the more they earn, but the government attitude is really bizarre. Cutting troops when fighting a war, pulling out before the job's done? Barmy.   Will
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22 July:  spot on thinners. cut your own troops and pay the enemy to fight us. great political strategy these condems have.    pete
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22 July:   The judgment of the international court of justice is a real blow to many people in the world who will suffer as a result of this decision. It is proof that illegal wars and forceful expulsion of population can be legitimised by, of all people the judges of the ICJ. According to this decision the illegal occupation of northern Cyprus can be legitimised by a declaration of independence. Russia and China will presumably be unhappy too. All law students should be taught that this judgment shows might is right.   Andreas
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I share your concerns, Andreas. The implications are enormous and extremely worrying. However, before we can really discuss it, perhaps we should see the full judgment first. It is not yet available on the ICJ website but, when it is, it will be posted to the cases page. Apologies for wrongly attributing this posting.        Aspals
22 July:   The deaths of two more soldiers who selflessly risked their lives to rescue an injured colleague when they were shot dead by gunmen who have no consideration about the law of war really makes me sick. While all this is going on the government tells our enemies that they are planning on pulling out troops which signals two things. Firstly that they have won and secondly that the lives of our soldiers were given for nothing. What really gets me going is the fact that the government and left wing well-intentioned liberal lawyers and judges force the government to pay millions of pounds out in compensation to our enemies who don't say they were tortured by our agents but that our agents knew they were being tortured. How mad is that? I bet anything that every terrorist is told to say they have been tortured by the Brits when captured to get compensation and negative propaganda for the army and security services. So we end up with the situation that our enemies, who have no regard whatsoever for the Geneva Conventions or basic standards of decency towards injured combatants, are actually paid compensation by our government when we capture them and our soldiers criticised about how they treat them. What a fantastic recruiting incentive to the Taliban and Al Quaeda. It's a win win situation. I suppose we have to find the compensation money from some where, so we have to pull out the troops before we can ditch 30000 in more savage cuts reminiscent of the Maggie years of drawdown.   Thinners
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20 July:  I know that this is not a military issue but I hope you will print my message as it is a human rights matter. I am really worried and angered by the new government's support for the repressive custom among some Muslims of making their women folk wear a veil. I should say that I am married to a Muslim woman who is very much her own person. There may be some who willingly wear a veil, although how that could ever be described as empowering is beyond me. Unfortunately the majority are made to wear this garment as a symbol of their lower status in society. The idea that women need to have their faces hidden so that other men may not gaze on their beauty is a euphemism for women who need to hide the signs of physical abuse that many suffer at the hands of domineering husbands, brothers, fathers and so on.
As for the women who want to wear the veil, it's a political statement that has absolutely no basis in the Koran and is not therefor a religious reason. I would argue that their "right" is outweighed by the interests of our progessive society where we communicate by looking other people in the face. Just imagine men wearing full face ballaclavars or motor bike helmets with the visor down. Do we think that acceptable? If I saw a person wearing a full face ballaclavar I would assume he was a bank robber. The thing that really worries me is that the burka has now become a very negative symbol of the Muslim faith, rather than of a small repressed or fundamentalist minority who happen to be Muslim. It's generated attention completely out of proportion to what it deserves as most Muslim women are against it and do not want to associate with symbols that mark them out as different and unwilling to integrate. I think that it is clear that the whole issue, and the unbelievably stupid and incompetent way the government is handling it, only serves to make things worse and to categorise Muslims as refusing to accept British values. It is testing the tolerance of British people to breaking point. Muslims need to do away with symbolism promoting division and show they identify with the customs of the country they live in.    Married Man  (true identity withheld)

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I have printed your message, although I do noth think that this forum is the right one for discussion - Sorry. I think this is a very emotive topic and has occupied a lot of press space. The views of Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman, were systematically dissected and shown for the sanctimonious nonsense they are by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, a British journalist who happens to be a Muslim. It is interesting that it is not just France and Belgium that oppose the burka. Turkey, and now Syria, do too.
I think I may have mentioned before my conversation some years ago with a very wise rastafarian musician who, when I asked him about racism in the States, replied to the effect that we concentrate far too much on what divides us rather than what unites us. Anyway, enough said.       Aspals
15 July:  judges think there above the law and theres nobody to control them. if parliament tries to pass a law to make them follow the line they use human rights to do the opposite.    pete
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13 July:  Judges do not have an unfettered right to strike down legislation, save where it is incompatible with the ECHR (see section 4 of the HR Act 98)when they can make a declaration of incompatibility. That said, judicial independence in my view means freedom from improper interference with the judge's performance of his functions, but they must still decide cases in accordance with the law. The interesting feature in our jurisdiction is that, through the appellate process, it is possible to have a majority of judges actually against the appellant's case, but the appellant can still succeed provided the court of last resort supplies him with a majority decision, even if it is by one vote. When that happens on the basis of striking down legislation as incompatible it does seem to rub parliament's nose in it. One can hardly imagine that anti-terrorist legislation or laws to oust undesirable aliens, are not carefully scrutinised to ensure compatibility with the ECHR. It just needs one vote in the Supreme Court to make a difference.    Roger
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12 July:   Whether you agree with the decisions of the judges or not, isn't that the point of an independent judiciary, that it can overrule the clear intention of parliament?   Tess
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11 July:   Will's point about judges overturning the will of parliament does worry me a bit. While I am all for an independent judiciary, the idea of overruling the clear intention of Parliament is not on. Our judges are among the best in the world, but they do seem to have chosen the path of conflict with parliament over this problem of the human rights of terrorists being preferred to the safety of the country.
On the other hand, I disagree with Will and applaud the decision of the Supreme Court in relation to the case of the two gays. In cases where there is genuine persecution against people for their sexuality rather than criminal conduct our society should offer them sanctuary until the time it's safe for them to return to their home country. It's quite different to the case of foreign terrorists who are a threat to us. I can see why there are some who are unhappy at the fact that our money goes to support them in this country. It does sound a bit daft but I am at a loss to guess where we go from here. Repealing the Human Rights Act and withdrawing from the Convention would be excessive responses. The whole situation seems to have been brought about by the way the judges handle terrorist cases. Not many people I know can understand their reasoning and think they are taking a good point to a silly extreme. That is not good for the legal system as a whole and has really undermined people's confidence in human rights law. A bit like the judges have found a new toy to play with which they do at every opportunity.   Thinners
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11 July:   If the power to derogate has been squashed by the House of Lords then there really is no hope. A society which tolerates everything is one I think which strangely enough leads to anarchy. The court placed itself on a higher plane than government and overrode the intention of Parliament which was expressed to protect its citizens. The rights of terrorists were given precedence.
At a time when everyone is being told that we must face salary freezes, and millions will be made redundant in order to reduce the deficit, those few remaining tax payers will suffer the increased burden for paying the legal aid and living costs of terrorists and every other illegal immigrant to this country who the courts refuse to extradite because of some allegation that their human rights will be denied. What gets me is that the courts make no distinction between home grown terrorists and those foreign terrorists. We can't deport home grown terrorists but it is bonkers to refuse to send foreigners back home. No wonder everyone wants to come to Britain. We must be seen as the biggest mugs in the world, all thanks to our excessively liberal judges and a generous benefits system. Last week the court refused to deport a couple of gays because they might face persecution in a country that thinks gays are perverts and wont let them drink pink cocktails and listen to Kylie. Why should that bother us? How many other minority groups will qualify on frivolous grounds for asylum. I wonder where it will stop. Just about anything goes as far as our courts are concerned.
I had no idea that our courts are to blame for removing the government power to derogate. I didn't think courts could strike down laws created by parliament. Whether or not we like the coalition government as with all governments its members were voted into power by the people. None of the judges were elected but they can overrule decisions of elected government. This is not good. It is worse when their decisions are harmful to the nation.   Will
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11 July:  quis what. so our judges are to blame after all from what anthony says. government tries to get it right and judges torpedo them.    pete
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10 July:   The Government did derogate from Article 5 (1) of the ECHR (Under the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001) by means of the The Human Rights Act 1998 (Designated Derogation) Order 2001. The bad news is that in the House of Lords, in A (FC) and others (FC) (Appellants) v. Secretary of State for the Home Department (Respondent) 2004, things did not go so well. Although Lord Bingham said that the European Convention gives member states a limited right to derogate from some articles of the Convention (including article 5, although not article 3), in time of war or other public emergency threatening the life of the nation, and while accepting that there was a threat to the nation, it was held that the Derogation Order was not proportionate as it did not include citizens of the UK and therefore did not comply with the ECHR. The court was not prepared to uphold the derogation even though recognising the threat posed by Al Qaeda was a "public emergency threatening the life of the nation". In fact, the derogation was withdrawn by the The Human Rights Act 1998 (Amendment) Order 2005. The detention provisions under the 2001 Act were repealed with effect from 14th March 2005 by section 16(2)(a) of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005.    Anthony
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10 July:  The government should derogate from the ECHR and the HRA in cases of terrorism. That would solve the problem and stop the European Court passing judgment on those cases. Its inaction shows that this lot of Tories are as weak and ineffective as the lot they replaced. They talk big but don't deliver. Although I don't share Ramon's view of the USA being the centre of the universe, as its record over Guatanamo is not good, he does have a point about the way the European Court has judged its common law system. Sending extremely dangerous people to prison for life is a good thing and must surely be better than executing them or not sending them to prison for very long, or not at all. It provides better treatment to them than they are prepared to show to their victims. I agree with Tess that it's about time there was some common sense introduced. The world has changed and we need to wake up to the fact - I should say, the judicial authorities need to wake up to the fact. They are should be the guardians of our freedoms as well as those of the criminals.   Scipio
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As they say: "Quis custodiet ipsos custodiens?"   Aspals
10 July:  thinners says it all.   pete
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9 July:   Madness rules. No wonder there are thousands of foreigners massing at Calais to get into this country. Once they're in they can rob, kill, maime and sponge off our system with impunity, safe in the knowledge they will never be sent back to their home country cos its a breach of their human rights. It's difficult ot have faith in the system of justice that's supposed to exist. Justice for who?   Thinners
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9 July:   The ECHR decision does throw the spotlight on the role of the court in deciding issues that impinge on our security. Should they be able to do it? Until the July 7 bombings I would have agreed that we should always sympathetically consider those whose return to their homeland might subject them to a less sympathetic regime than ours. But that event changed my way of thinking. I also find it astonishing that the court is prepared to suggest that imprisonment in a US jail could amount to a breach of Convention Rights. I can understand Ramon's irritation. When is some common sense going to be injected into the matter? We are prevented from extraditing dangerous foreign terrorists because US jails are too harsh, but have no second thoughts about handing over an autistic computer geek who was looking for UFOs when he penetrated the US missile computer system and harmed no one.   Tess
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9 July:  every terrorists and low life is welcome in cesspit britain. now the foreign court in europe has joined in to make sure we dont dump dangerous men on their countries. i supopse it serves us right for letting them in in the first place.   pete
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8 July:  As an American I get really angry at the way the European Court self righteously tries to judge our way of life. The latest decision over Abu Hamza shows what I mean. This judgmet is by a court made of judges from nations who never understood the meaning of fighting terror. Where are these countries when the going gets tough in Afghanistan or Iraq. There hunkering down in some safe area while US and UK do the dirty work and take the hits. All I can say is God Bless America that we stand up to scum. European pompous self righteousness makes me glad I live in the States where we kick ass that needs kicking and dont go soft on terrorism.    Ramon
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Very good to hear from you again Ramon. Just to clarify, the judgment is not a final ruling. The Court has said that the case is admissible, ie should be argued in full, but in the meantime none of the prisoners is to be extradited. We shall monitor the case and make sure that the final decision is posted to the cases page. Whichever way it goes I am sure it will provoke some debate.   Aspals
4 July:  The dissenting minority made the point that if British soldiers serving overseas were not subject to UK jurisdiction (and therefore the ECHR) then whose jurisdiction were they subject to. It should also be pointed out, in fairness to MOD, that they were not contesting the point that at the time he died Pte Smith was within the jurisdiction for article 1 purposes. They were more concerned with the broader question of applicability in situations reaching beyond the territorial exception created by Bankovic.    Roger
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3 July:   The case Roger refers to is very worrying, but then again, even the judges found the decision on ECHR jurisdiction a difficult one and left it open to Strasbourg. I am drawn to Anthony's arguments and agree there is a distinction between the case of our own troops fighting on our behalf who are subject to military law (and therefore English criminal law) wherever they go, and that of foreign nationals killed or injured in military action. If a soldier is accused of a crime when serving on operations and is tried by a court martial in theatre, the implication of the judgment is that the Human Rights Act has no application to him so that article 6 guarantees of a fair trial don't apply, but a foreign prisoner being abused by British soldiers acquires rights denied to a British solder. With all respect to the learned justices, that can't be right. It doesn't make sense. Will Aspals run a book on the chances of success on appeal?   Tess
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We would not want to encourage gambling! Seriously though, Tess, I think the odds are that the appeal will succeed in Europe. If I were a gambling man, that would be my bet.   Aspals
3 July:  brits are slier than yanks. they didnt sack dannat but stopped him from being cds so he had to retire. same thing as sacking just more sly.    pete
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3 July:  If a general must display loyalty to his political chain of command, how is that Dannat was not sacked for his comments?   Pegasus
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1 July:  Roger makes an excellent point about the Supreme Court decision. The very idea that the negligent treatment of a soldier, leading to his death, should fall outside of the HRA just because he happens to be on active service outside of the ECHR geographical area is difficult to believe. Those circumstances are distinguishable from events happening at quick pace on the battlefield, when decisions are made on the basis of available information and using best judgment. But we are talking about our own soldiers here, being members of an army whose government applies the HRA and ECHR to those within its jurisdiction (see Al Skeini). The very idea that British soldiers on ops are not within the jurisdiction of the UK when that nexus is found in other cases involving actions of people from nations that actually have no connection at all with the ECHR is disappointing. As Roger says, the bizarre fact is that an allegation that MI5 officials were complicit (ie did not do the actual torturing, but knew about it) in torture (as in the Binyam Mohamed case, or the case of Rangzieb Ahmed) gives rise to a claim for damages for ECHR violations. Now, before anyone says that I am condoning torture, I am not. I am just saying that in both cases the individuals were British, although neither was in the custody of UK. Yet they carried their ECHR rights with them when it came to allegations of abuse by British State Agents in overseas countries outside the ECHR area. Soldiers on ops are British State Agents, yet they do not have any recourse to HRA when their rights are infringed by their own State.
To say ECHR rights apply to our soldiers when they are victims of decisions or actions by our State Agents is distinguishable from saying that in every case ECHR law applies to the actions of soldiers when on the battlefield. In the case of combat, the law which governs how troops behave towards their enemy and civilians is International Humanitarian Law, as the lex specialis. It is in my view inappropriate for a second body of law, Human Rights law, to encroach into an area governed by IHL which, in many respects, informed the ECHR as the Geneva Conventions were signed before the ECHR and it is highly unlikely that those drafting the ECHR were not aware of the rights conferred by the Geneva Conventions. Any breaches of the Geneva Conventions may give rise to criminal sanction under the Armed Forces Act or even in the civilian criminal courts. But that is quite different to the case where we are looking at the rights of our own soldiers vis a vis the UK State.
The Supreme Court identified the jurisdiction issue as:  "Is a soldier on military service abroad in Iraq subject to the protection of the Human Rights Act 1998 ("the HRA") when outside his base?" Jason Smith did not die on the battlefield. He died on a British Military location, at his accommodation location in an old athletics stadium, some 12kms from his base in Iraq, after suffering from the heat for several days. To say that, as a British soldier, he is denied ECHR protection in those circumstances is deeply saddening when, in contrast, captured foreign prisoners in our custody in Iraq acquired ECHR rights (see Al Skeini).
Reckless operational planning decisions of a commander that lead to the needless deaths of people under his command, or refusals at MoD or government level to equip troops properly who are sent into battle, or breaches of the duty of care owed to soldiers, should not escape accountability under the ECHR. "Be ye never so high the law is above ye," as Thomas Fuller once said. Lord Mance and Lord Kerr both gave dissenting views. Lord Mance, said that as an occupying power in Iraq, the UK had under international law an almost absolute power over the safety of its forces. The relationship was not territorial but depended on a reciprocal bond of authority and control on the one hand and allegiance and obedience on the other. In his view the Strasbourg court would hold that the armed forces of a state were within the meaning of article 1 and for the purposes of article 2 wherever they might be. Lord Kerr agreed. If the state could 'export' its jurisdiction by taking control of an area abroad it could equally do so when it took control of an individual. In his view this had already been recognised albeit obliquely by the Strasbourg court. I happen to respectfully agree with those views. The majority was also clearly concerned about the implications and thought that the Strasbourg court would be the proper forum to determine this issue. We must see what the applicant wants to do.    Anthony
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30 June:  Today's decision by the Supreme court comes as a bit of a disappointment. To say that soldiers serving their country are not within the HRA, when suspected terrorists who claim that MI5 was complicit in their torture are, is a bit troubling. The door is very obviously open to a European HR Court appeal.    Roger
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29 June:  Scipio has a point, which the Telegraph shares. I attach the link.    Anthony
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27 June (sent, 25th):  A General must display loyalty to his political chain of command and hold his tongue to the press, no matter how foolish he thinks his political leaders are or how naive their polisies. The military serves the government not the other way round.    Scipio
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24 June:  justice is justice whatever the cost. that means justice for all not just a small number chosen as a way of bashing the british government. on a different point obama showed he really knows how to run a successful campaign in afghan. sack your general who is doing a great job and who is respected by karzai for it and by the troops there and replace him with a company man who will toe the party line. since when did obama become such an expert in running a successful military campaign.    pete
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An interesting point, Pete, about President Obama, but I would ask that we look to legal issues rather than general military ones for discussion. The point about Bloody Sunday is well made.   Aspals
18 June:   It will be sad if the government caves in and holds more inquiries into N Ireland's sad recent history. Although I can sympathize with families wanting to see prosecutions for the killing of their relatives, it does start to get very difficult to only do that in selected cases, where there has been a lengthy and costly inquiry, when there are other murders which haven't been given the same amount of attention. There is still an unanswered question about Martin McGuinness and the suggestion that he was carrying a machine gun and that his whereabouts were unaccounted for over 20 minutes. As someone said, there probably isn't enough evidence to prosecute anyone for what took place so long ago and perhaps that is the fairest result. Terrorists carrying out premeditated murder were granted amnesty so why shouldn't the same apply to soldiers put in to police a possible riot? The events of the day seem confused and there are conflicting versions of who shot first.   Thinners
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17 June:  Just to reply to Roger - I didn't see his post until now, sorry. I accept what he says about the law and the need to change it, but the judges do have some latitude here. Isn't that what the common law is all about? Our judges aren't distinguishing between political refugees who are wanted in their home country for alleged terrorist acts and do not pose a threat to us in this country and foreigners arrested in this country who plot or carry out terrorist acts against us here. Why should we be prevented from deporting them?
As for bloody Sunday, once you start one inquiry to alot blame it's a bit difficult not to have others eg to examine the IRA murders of soldiers at Warren Point or the Enniskillen bombings or countless other IRA atrocities and to look at the involvement of some of the figures who are part of the political landscape in NI today.    Alan
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16 June:  no one should be prosecuted for what happened 40 years ago when things were very confused. in situations like that when shots are fired very few peopel think absolutely clearly. they just react. cameron should have been a bit more reticent. what about the soldiers murdered by ira bombs and snipers and booby traps.    pete
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16 June:  I do not really disagree with much of what Scipio said. His message appears to agree with my view that it is time for a new approach to the prosecution of terrorists which should incorporate an international consensus.    Roger
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16 June:   The prosecution looks like a non starter but the lower standard of proof in a civil trial might entice one or two to have a go by serving a writ. I still think that they would be facing an uphill struggle unless there is some very clear and reliable evidence. I heard Michael Mansfield QC this morning on the radio. He represented some of the families at the inquiry. His view was that it is time to draw a line under this whole sorry episode. Something that General Jackson agreed with. The trouble is, if you let it go on, where does it stop? What about victims of IRA terrorism? All of these people were murdered. Let us look to the future in Northern Ireland. The place is a lot happier than it used to be in those dark days of the troubles. The families in the Saville inquiry got what they wanted, an inquiry and vindication of their loved ones. My thoughts are with them.   Tess
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15 June:  Prosecution of the Paras might be difficult as the bargain struck for giving evidence to the Inquiry was that their evidence would not be used against them for the purpose of a prosecution. Any attempt now to prosecute on the basis of a confession to the Saville Inquiry would most likely fail as an abuse of process. There would need to be independent evidence to support a prosecution, to the standard of showing a realistic prospect of conviction. Even if there were independent evidence, the DPP would then have to be satisfied that it was in the public interest to prosecute. I think the point made about the amnesty given to terrorists who, as Patrick Mercer said, participated in premeditated planned murder, might play a part in any decision by the DPP. A civil action is a different matter, but it is not clear if the terms of the immunity included freedom from civil suit. If it did not, then there would be nothing to preclude a civil action, provided it was not regarded as time barred. There is still the problem of the time lapse and the question whether any trial, so long after the event, would be fair. I suppose we shall have to wait and see what the families decide to do.    Anthony
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15 June:  nearly 30 years on and theyr talking about prosecuting soldiers for the bloody sunday business when terrorists have been granted amnesty. bloody stupid if you ask me.    pete
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15 June:  The Tories do have form for cutting the forces. Politicians are all the same. You can't trust them. The expenses scandal just showed then up for what they are - in it for the money and not to represent the people. Public service. That's a joke. Our soldiers are dying fighting a war that the last government took them in to and it just beggars belief that any responsible person let alone a politician could think of cutting the number of soldiers in the middle of a war.    Alan
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14 June:  They've only been in government 5 minutes but the Tories are up to their old tricks. Back in the 90s their government slashed the size of the armed forces, with the army alone losing more than 40,000 men. Since then our international commitments have grown and we have faced years of almost continual conflict somewhere or other in the world. Our soldiers are dying, initially from poor funding from government and bad decisions over equipment replacement. Now, at the height of the Afghan campaign, the views of Liam Fox that the army might lose more men just defy belief. How can a responsible government cut the number of troops fighting in a war that it sent them into? Come on you human rights lawyers, isn't that a breach of the rights of soldiers to their lives. It is quite disgusting. Along with judges siding with terrorists and now government cutting the forces that fight international terrorism I think the country has gone completely mad.    Will
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13 June:  I want to comment on what Roger says. Allowing terrorists to undermine our society by exploiting the liberal legal regime we live in which caters for "normal circumstances" I think undermines the rule of law, because law is there to protect members of society from those who would harm it. While it does not mean that those suspected of harming society should be denied basic human rights, or tortured or mistreated in any way, it does mean that courts have to balance their rights with the rights of society. Allowing our country to become a cess pit for violent foreign terrorists (to quote Will) is an abrogation of that duty. It is no good for judges to hide behind the law, cowering or, as some may think, gloating, it leaves us unprotected and vulnerable and angry. It also places the law and the judges who administer it so willingly in contempt. It is one thing to live in a liberal democracy but quite something else to stand idly or smugly by when its very existence is threatened. Don't judges recognise we are under threat?
Much of the problem lies in human rights treaties which actually cater for different situations. It is quite understandable, from a human rights point of view, to argue that people seeking refuge in this country from regimes where they are branded terrorists should have their cases viewed sympathetically, as they are political refugees. But the point made on this website by others is one that I agree with, which is why should we be required to keep here foreign terrorists who are trying to kill us? We should be able to deport them. The human rights treaties relied on by these criminals are not there to protect them in these situations. They have forfeited their right to our hospitality and earned their deportation back to their home country. The anger which Alan expresses is one that a lot of people I know share even more so when our taxes are being used to support these criminals.    Scipio
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10 June:  great point roger. just a shame the judges think that protecting this scum is the right thing to do.    pete
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10 June:  Can I suggest in reply to Alan's comment that Lord Phillips is actually stuck with the provisions of the Human Rights Act which incorporates the Convention, plus the Convention Against Torture. The hands of the judges are pretty much tied. The problem for our legal system is that because the evidence against these people is so sensitive, and might rely upon informants or special surveillance, the security services do not want their sources and methods to be revealed in open court. Because the courts have virtually struck down the control order system, prosecutors and intelligence services are, to use an Amercanism, stuck between a rock and a hard place. Do they prosecute, and run the risk of their sources being revealed, or do they monitor these individuals, at huge costs, while the suspects themselves carry on their lives, drawing social security benefits from the tax payer while simultaneously planning to kill as many of us as they can until such time as the police have admissible evidence that will support a prosecution and not require divulging intelligence sources? The suspects themselves have been very skillful at exploiting human rights arguments to attack the vulnerable area of intelligence. They know that the government and security services will usually back down in such cases and, if they don't, the courts will ususally hold that sensitive material has to be disclosed. So, for the terrorists, it is a brilliant tactic to use. And the newspapers of course rally to their support.
If we are going to get ourselves out of this mess, there has to be a fundamental re-think on prosecution of terrorists and it must involve an international effort, possibly even a change in the law. In the meantime, the government could always derogate from the ECHR in cases of terrorism. I believe this was done in the case of Northern Ireland.    Roger

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I have added some links to source materials quoted.   Aspals
9 June:  I see what you mean Trevor. I don't think any of those making the more silly comments have ever commanded at regimental level. If they had they should know better. I suspect they are just winding up the others. Command responsibility goes back a long way. There was a Jap general who was tried and convicted and executed for what his subordinates did. He claimed he didn't know about it but the court said he should have.    Scipio
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The general you refer to was Yamashita. Of course, the Geneva Conventions and Protocols further amplify command responsibility. See also the Rome Statute and International Criminal Court Act 2001 Act.    Aspals
9 June:  Pinko judges are at it again. What I find objectionable about the latest offering of the Master of the Rolls in the Times today is not that he is defending the law by saying well, that's what we are stuck with until Parliament decides to come up with something a bit more sensible, but that he actually believes that keeping dangerous foreign terrorists in this country, a country where they want to carry out murder against its people, is the right thing to do. They should move some of these killers into houses next to him and see how comfortable he feels then. Of course, he probably lives in a mansion in the country. Judges are supposed to protect us from killers and terrorists not naively support them against us. God spare us the bleeding hearts and hand wringing and bring back judges interested in justice for the people of this country. If you think I'm angry, you're dead right.    Alan
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9 June:  No one commented on the evidence given by General Jackson at the Iraq inquiry, so here goes. Was he right to speak out as he did about the chain of command in the unit? I think he was. I was reading some really amazing comments on the Arrse site where most people think that the CO bears no responsibility for what happened because the court cleared him. I don't know why the court found him not guilty, presumably the evidence was not good enough, but it is difficult to understand how a CO in a regiment that captures people suspected of killing one of his soldiers isn't interested in what is happening to them and whether they are saying anything about the death. What sort of a unit is that? He must have had his higher commanders breathing down his neck to find out what was going on but he was too busy to take an interest. Then there is the wall of silence at the trial. Perhaps that played a part in the acquittals of everyone apart from one. What remains is the death of a man at the hands of British soldiers and no one has been made accountable. That is something the British army can truly be proud of covering up.    Trevor
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3 June:  I am not trying to put every Muslim into one category. I was concerned about those men who want to dominate their women by making them cover up their faces when it isn't even a requirement of the Koran. It just isn't acceptable in a liberal democracy that women should be treated that way.    Briony
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3 June:  Personally I don't care what religion a person is. I still feel that no one should hide their face whether or not they are forced to do it or whether they choose to.    Tuppy
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2 June:  I don't know a lot about Islam to say too much about it but judging by friends of mine who happen to be Muslim I do think that there is a difference between the sort of extreme situation which Briony talks about, from people who live in the past, and younger Muslims who grew up in this country and who are the same as everyone else in their outlook and their regard for human rights of women. They would maybe be as horrified as everyone else at the way some of the old guard fundamentalists treat their women. You can't put every Muslim in the same category.    Rob
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1 June:   If Rob looks at the article in yesterday's Telegraph (An exceptional woman's rejection of Islam) he might see things differently. Ayaan Hirsi Ali has a very clear view that Islam is about male domination and control and thinks that Muslim societies are riddled with suspicion. I find it quite scary that any woman would want to volunarily join a faith like that.   Tess
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30 May:  There may be lots of women converting to Islam. People are free to choose their religion. I am not arguing against the Muslim religion but the fact that Islamic men are forcing women to wear clothing that even the Koran does not demand. It is repressive and demeans women who should be treated as equals not chattles.    Briony
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30 May:  The other day I mentioned that some women chose to wear the veil voluntarily. There was a newspaper item in the Times that I saw which made the point that quite a few western women were choosing to convert to Islam and quite a lot were university graduates. So they don't sound oppressed to me.    Rob
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26 May:  Nothing changes! It goes to show that the courts are paying too much attention to rumour and not enough to assurances from foreign governments that they will not torture.    Tuppy
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24 May:  nothing changes then tuppy.    pete
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