Boris Johnson last night vowed to change the law to protect Northern Ireland veterans.
On the eve of Armistice Day, he unveiled a plan to end a legal ‘witch-hunt’ against our former soldiers and told them: ‘We will always support you.’
The Prime Minister wants to amend the Human Rights Act so that it does not apply to any incidents before it came into force in October 2000.
It would end the obligation on the authorities to investigate veterans, many now in their 60s, who served during the Troubles.
The Prime Minister (pictured) wants to amend the Human Rights Act so that it does not apply to any incidents before it came into force in October 2000
Ben Wallace said the ‘Armed Forces have been subject to rulings by British courts which have led to the law being weaponised against our Armed Forces.’
He said it was ‘illogical to apply improper extensions of human rights law’ when the law of armed conflict already applies to military operations.
Mr Wallace said the Tories would ‘end the unfair trials of people who served their country when no new evidence has been produced and when the accusations have already been exhaustively questioned in court’ it added.
Ahead of a trip to the Black Country today, Mr Johnson said: ‘If I’m elected on the 12th December, I want the message from my Government to our Armed Forces to be louder and clearer than ever: we salute you and we will always support you.’
Ben Wallace (pictured) said the ‘Armed Forces have been subject to rulings by British courts which have led to the law being weaponised against our Armed Forces’
In 2017 Theresa May announced plans to prevent troops being investigated in future conflicts following a campaign by the Daily Mail.
Today’s announcement is a huge victory for ex-soldiers who have faced years of uncertainty.
Veterans minister Johnny Mercer said: ‘The Armed Forces has always ensured that those who break the law will be held to account – our ability to do this sets us apart from those we do battle with. There has never been a hiding place in uniform for those who cannot operate within the professional boundaries.
‘But war and conflict is changing, and so-called ‘lawfare’ is now a part of that. We must protect our service personnel accordingly.
‘With a Conservative majority government, the Law of Armed Conflict will be the appropriate and specific choice for military operations.’
Mr Mercer, a former Army captain, added: ‘The Human Rights Act will be amended to specify that it doesn’t apply to issues – including any death in the Northern Ireland Troubles – that took place before the Act came into force in October 2000. This will restore the intended scope of the Act.’
The Mail has highlighted how veterans have faced repeated investigations over alleged incidents many decades earlier. And David Petraeus, a former US general, yesterday issued an extraordinary condemnation of the legal ‘witch-hunt’.
His comments came in a foreword to a report by the Policy Exchange think-tank published that calls on the Government to amend the Human Rights Act.
The Act gives effect to the principles set out in the European Convention on Human Rights, such as the prohibition of torture and the right to a fair trial.
It is understood that under the proposed shake-up, the Government would not be obliged to force veterans to give evidence to inquests in Northern Ireland.
Former soldiers have been before as many as 70 inquests – an experience Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said they found ‘frightening’.
Veterans minister Johnny Mercer (pictured) said: ‘The Armed Forces has always ensured that those who break the law will be held to account – our ability to do this sets us apart from those we do battle with’
The change would also aim to limit the number of criminal cases troops face, although details on this are unclear. It is understood the Tories are planning to bring in further reforms to ensure criminal cases are stamped out.
They have also unveiled proposals for a tax cut for businesses by scrapping their national insurance contributions for a year for each veteran they take on.
The party has pledged to provide ‘wraparound’ childcare for military families, including breakfast clubs and after-school clubs. This would cover early starts and late finishes for working parents of children aged four to 11 in an attempt to persuade women to stay in uniform.
Veterans will also be guaranteed a job interview for any public sector role they apply for in a move to overcome obstacles to employment. Mr Johnson said: ‘These measures will mean more childcare support for those who are currently serving.
‘And it will mean that we harness the enormous contribution that veterans can make to our businesses and public sector organisations.’
Mr Wallace added: ‘In the days of advanced technology and automation it is easy to forget that the most important equipment in the Armed Forces are the men and women serving. This policy demonstrates our commitment to them and is a recognition of the pressures they face.’
Jeremy Corbyn has also announced a series of reforms, pledging decent housing for the military and their families and better access to schools.
Labour says that it will consult on creating a body similar to the Police Federation to give a ‘voice’ to servicemen and women.
US general condemns witch-hunt
By Larisa Brown Defence and Security Editor
A former US general today blasts Britain’s ‘unfair’ legal witch-hunt against soldiers and veterans.
General David Petraeus, who led coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, will say it is appalling that troops who served in Northern Ireland remain exposed to the risk of prosecution decades on.
His intervention comes in a report by a think-tank resisting the ‘judicialisation’ of war. General Petraeus wrote: ‘British soldiers are increasingly subject to a different legal regime than are their American counterparts.’
The former CIA chief said the extension of the European Convention on Human Rights to the battlefield had made ‘extensive litigation against British soldiers inevitable’, adding: ‘This, in turn, risks promoting a culture of risk aversion in the ranks.
‘The unfair pursuit of British soldiers and veterans in the aftermath of operations is particularly concerning. This has caused enormous stress and anxiety on those who are caught up in investigations, sometimes years or even decades after their combat service.
‘The extent to which those who served decades ago in Northern Ireland, including the highly distinguished soldier-scholar General Sir Frank Kitson, remain exposed to legal risk is striking and appalling.
‘This is not only unfair to those who have served and sacrificed for their country, it also gravely undermines the morale of those serving now and raises an unnecessary concern for potential recruits.’
Professor Richard Ekins and Julie Marionneau, who wrote the Policy Exchange report, say ministers must maintain the policy of derogating from the ECHR in future battles, as promised by the Tory party.
The pair also argue that the Human Rights Act must be amended.