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

Polls Open in Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid