News / Europe

    UK: Soldier Deaths' Court Ruling Will Harm Combat Missions

    British soldiers from the Light Dragoons lay to rest their fallen colleague, Lance Corporal Nigel Moffett, during a burial service in Belfast (file photo).
    British soldiers from the Light Dragoons lay to rest their fallen colleague, Lance Corporal Nigel Moffett, during a burial service in Belfast (file photo).
    Reuters
    The British government warned on Wednesday that future combat operations could become more difficult after a court ruled that families of three soldiers killed in Iraq could sue the military for failing to protect troops on active duty.
     
    Britain's Supreme Court upheld the claim of relatives that the Human Rights Act applied to troops serving in battle abroad, and rejected the Ministry of Defense's argument that it was protected by a doctrine of combat immunity.
     
    Under the doctrine, the government cannot be held responsible for actions or omissions that cause death or injury during combat.
     
    The ruling delighted and surprised the families involved, but Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said that worrying about soldiers' human rights could have a serious impact on future military missions.
     
    “I am very concerned at the wider implications of this judgment, which could ultimately make it more difficult for our troops to carry out operations and potentially throws open a wide range of military decisions to the uncertainty of litigation,'' Hammond said in a statement.
     
    “It can't be right that troops on operations have to put the ECHR (European Court of Human Rights) ahead of what is operationally vital to protect our national security,'' he added.
     
    Britain's top court, which overturned a decision by the Court of Appeal last year, ruled troops did remain under British jurisdiction when deployed on active service abroad and consequently were covered by the Human Rights Act.
     
    The decision means families of soldiers killed can now take their cases to trial to seek damages from the MoD for negligence.
     
    The claims related to the deaths of two British soldiers killed by improvised explosive devices while traveling in the heavily criticized, lightly armored Snatch Land Rover vehicles, and another who died in a “friendly fire'' incident.

    Long battle
     
    “It has been a long hard battle to get to this decision today and we now finally have permission to proceed and prove the MoD were at fault,'' said Susan Smith, whose son, Private Philip Hewett, was killed when his Snatch Land Rover was struck by an explosion in July 2005.
     
    “They can no longer treat soldiers as sub-human with no rights,'' she said
     
    Relatives of some British soldiers killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan have blamed inadequate equipment for unnecessary deaths. Snatch Land Rovers have been particularly singled out, with critics arguing they gave too little or no protection from roadside bombs.
     
    “Snatch Land Rovers were known to be inadequate for many years before the Iraq conflict. They were known to be unsafe and were becoming increasingly so as the insurgency grew and were nicknamed 'mobile coffins','' said the families' lawyer Jocelyn Cockburn.
     
    “There seems to have been no intent to act upon the clear evidence regarding the safety of these vehicles,'' she added.

    You May Like

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora