Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Britain wants its troops to commit war crimes

That's the only conclusion that can be drawn from its "vow" to introduce an amnesty for crimes committed by soldiers and to derogate from the ECHR:

The new defence secretary has promised to introduce an amnesty on historical prosecutions for military veterans who served in Iraq, Afghanistan and anywhere else around the world – with the exception of Northern Ireland.

Penny Mordaunt will consult on proposals for a presumption against prosecution for offences committed more than 10 years ago and will say she supports plans to opt out of the European convention on human rights (ECHR) in future armed conflicts.

But the minister risks courting conflict with some on the right of her party, who want Northern Ireland to be included within any amnesty, following the prosecution of a former paratrooper for the murder of two people on Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972.

Both actions would send a clear signal to soldiers that they can commit all the war crimes they want, murder and torture with abandon, and the government will protect them. And it will enable them to avoid domestic punishment by allowing the military to drag out investigations (as they already do) to run out the clock on prosecution.

Derogating from the ECHR might not be as effective as they suppose though. Firstly, because the Convention does not permit any derogation from the right to life or the prohibitions on torture and slavery - which is where the UK's war crime problems are. And secondly, because such derogations most not be "inconsistent with its other obligations under international law" - such as the Geneva Conventions or Rome Statute of the Criminal Court. And indeed, as long as the UK remains a party to the latter, all an "amnesty" does is ensure that its war criminals are tried in The Hague rather than London, and that politicians get to join them in the dock as accessories who tried to protect them from international justice.