In 2016, the previous government announced its intention to prevent the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) leading to what it called “false charges against our troops on an industrial scale”. The argument made by leading ministers was that an industry of unscrupulous lawyers had sprung up to enrich themselves by pursuing “vexatious claims” against soldiers following conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that the way to prevent this was to derogate from (not conform to) certain articles in the ECHR.
This policy is a continuation of the attempt to put a stop to what the government views as unwarranted claims of misconduct by our armed forces.
The mechanisms proposed in the manifesto for achieving this objective are covered in two related policies:
- Make British troops subject to the Law of Armed Conflict
- Restrict legal aid for law firms that issue vexatious claims against the armed forces
The first of those aims to release the UK from certain obligations under the ECHR during future conflicts. Our verdict for that is ‘in progress’, although we need to monitor the impact of the UK’s potential exit from the EU.
We’ve marked the second of those policies as ‘not started’, as we can find no evidence of reforms to the legal aid process.
Given the status of those verdicts, and especially the policy on preventing “vexatious claims”, we can’t say armed forces personnel are yet protected from persistent legal claims. It’s possible the UK will not conform to the ECHR in future conflicts, but for now this one is ‘not started’. We’ll keep an eye on Brexit and also look out for legal aid reforms to see if we need to move this to ‘in progress’. Follow this policy for the latest developments.
Arm yourself with the facts
- Government to protect Armed Forces from persistent legal claims in future overseas operations – Gov.uk
- European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) – Council of Europe
- UK troops to be protected from ‘spurious legal claims’ – BBC News
- Legal aid reform – Gov.uk
- Human Rights Act 1998 – Gov.uk
- European Court of Human Rights – Council of Europe
- What is International Humanitarian Law? – International Committee of the Red Cross
- The Government’s proposed derogation from the ECHR inquiry – Joint Committee on Human Rights – Parliament.uk
- Derogation in time of emergency – European Court of Human Rights
- UK-EU security cooperation after Brexit: Follow-up report – Parliament.uk
- Liberty’s Written Evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights’ Inquiry into the Government’s Proposed Derogation from the ECHR – Liberty