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Committee to question MoD Ministers

2 October 2020

On Monday 5 October at 2.30pm the Joint Committee on Human Rights will be hearing from the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Defence, People and Veterans, Johnny Mercer and Minister of State, Baroness Goldie, about the human rights implications of this bill.

Last week the Committee heard concerns from witnesses about the human rights implications of this bill.

Purpose of the session

This week, the Committee will be hearing from the Minister of State, alongside the Veterans Minister and two Ministry of Defence representatives, and will focus on the following issues:

  • Concerns with the adequacy and independence of military investigations:
    • Consistent evidence points to there being systemic failings with the independence, adequacy, timeliness and effectiveness of military investigations into allegations of wrong-doing.  This has led to the problem of repeated investigations due to the inadequacy of the previous investigations.  Why is this not being tackled instead?
  • Implications of the presumption against prosecution after five years:
    • There are very few prosecutions of Armed Forces personnel and yet the Bill risks contravening the UK’s international legal obligations and the reputation of the UK Armed Forces – is it justified?
    • The scope of the presumption against prosecution applies to all offences except sexual crimes which risks creating impunity for serious offences such as war crimes and torture. This is incompatible with the UK’s international obligations to prosecute torture, war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.  If the presumption is justified shouldn’t those crimes be excluded?  What about the risk of cases being brought against Armed Forces personnel before the International Criminal Court?
    • The “triple locks” accompanying the presumption against prosecution are unduly onerous and effectively amount to a statute of limitation -are they all necessary?
  • Implications of the amended limitation period for civil and Human Right Act claims: 
    • The imposition of an absolute six-year time limit on claims will impact on members of the Armed Forces and civilians.  75% of claims are brought by service personnel.  Is the MOD saying that these claims by service personnel are vexatious?
    • Isn’t this more about the MOD avoiding accountability and responsibility, including for learning lessons to prevent future unnecessary deaths and injury?
  • Duty to consider derogation from the European Convention on Human Rights in overseas operations
    • The implications of introducing a duty to consider derogating from the ECHR.  How would this be used and what processes would be followed?
  • Wider Implications of the Bill on Military Operations:
    • Will this lead to a culture of non-compliance with IHL and IHRL among UK Armed Forces?
    • What will the impact be in terms of the relationship with civilian populations if this reinforces concerns that the British Armed Forces can’t be trusted to comply with the rule of law?
    • What will be the impact for the UK’s international reputation?


Monday 5 October

At 2.30pm

  • Baroness Goldie, Minister of State, Government Spokesperson in the House of Lords on defence matters
  • Johnny Mercer MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Defence, People and Veterans in the Ministry of Defence and Minister for Veterans’ Affairs in the Cabinet Office.
  • Damian Parmenter CBE, Director of the Defence & Security Industrial Strategy, Ministry of Defence
  • Katherine Willerton, Deputy Director and Head of the General Law Team, MoD Legal Advisers.

Further information

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