In Brief

Boris Johnson vows to end trials of soldiers accused in Troubles

PM's move to block ‘vexatious’ prosecutions condemned as ‘clickbait’

Boris Johnson has pledged to change the law to protect forces veterans from legal action if the Tories win the general election.

The prime minister says the Tories would legislate to ensure that peacetime laws are not applied to service personnel on military operations.

They would update the Human Rights Act so it does not apply to issues that took place before it came into force in October 2000, such as deaths during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

The Times reports that veterans’ groups claim that many of the allegations are “vexatious” and that “the law is being abused to hound retired servicemen years after the events in question took place”.

However, the proposed move would be in contravention with the European Convention on Human Rights, which requires nations to carry out effective official investigation into deaths where lethal force had been used against individuals by agents of the state.

Several veterans of Northern Ireland are expected to face trial, including Soldier F, an ex-paratrooper who is charged with two murders and four attempted murders during the Bloody Sunday incident in 1972.

Johnson’s proposal is not new, the BBC points out, as “the plans to exempt British troops from human rights laws during combat were first announced in 2016 by Mr Johnson's predecessor as prime minister, Theresa May”.

Former Tory leader, Iain Duncan Smith, welcomed the move to put it into law. “It really is important that they do something about this vexatious process,” he said.

However, human rights lawyers have condemned the plan.

Philippe Sands says that the Good Friday agreement commits Britain to “human rights for all, not just some”. He said: “Amending the act in the way proposed appears to raise serious concerns about compatibility with the Good Friday agreement, and it cannot affect the application of the ECHR as such.”

Mark Stephens, a human rights and media law specialist, told The Times the move “sounds like clickbait for Tory voters”.

He added: “The UK has been a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights since 1958 and if we want to remain part of that convention any amendment of domestic legislation will have to be compliant with it.”

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––For a round-up of the most important stories from around the world - and a concise, refreshing and balanced take on the week’s news agenda - try The Week magazine. Get your first six issues for £6–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Recommended

Is social media bad for your mental health?
171220-facebook.jpg
In Depth

Is social media bad for your mental health?

‘To escape the lockdown nightmare, put Covid into proportion’
A member of the public walks in front of government lockdown advertisements in Edinburgh
Instant Opinion

‘To escape the lockdown nightmare, put Covid into proportion’

Will 100,000 coronavirus deaths sink Boris Johnson?
Boris Johnson speaks during a virtual press conference.
Today’s big question

Will 100,000 coronavirus deaths sink Boris Johnson?

‘100,000 deaths’
Today's newspaper front pages
Today’s newspapers

‘100,000 deaths’

Popular articles

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 27 Jan 2021
10 Downing Street
Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 27 Jan 2021

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 25 Jan 2021
10 Downing Street
Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 25 Jan 2021

What do Covid vaccines cost - and who is paying over the odds?
People wait to be vaccinated at Salisbury Cathedral
Getting to grips with . . .

What do Covid vaccines cost - and who is paying over the odds?

Free 6 issue trial then continue to