THE Tory campaign to give the armed forces of the capitalist state complete immunity from criminal prosecution took another step forward yesterday.
PM Cameron issued a blanket denunciation of all legal action taken by the victims and relatives for criminal acts carried out by British military personnel during the Iraq war, calling them ‘spurious claims’, and ordering his ministers to come down hard on lawyers representing them.
Cameron has instructed his national security council to draw up measures that would end all these claims, including stopping the use of ‘no win, no fee’ arrangements and stopping all legal aid to victims unless they have lived in the UK for 12 months.
Cameron also has threatened tough action against any law firm pursuing claims against UK veterans of the illegal Iraq war. To date, 280 current and ex-military personnel are under investigation.
A spokesman for the law firm Leigh Day pointed out that, ‘Over the last 12 years, many cases of abuse made against the (Ministry of Defence) during the course of the occupation of Iraq have come to light and been accepted by the government. They include the appalling torture and murder of Baha Mousa in 2003. In addition, the government has paid compensation for over 300 other cases relating to abuse and unlawful detention of Iraqis.’
He added: ‘No one is above the law, not us, not the British army and not the government. We cannot imagine that the prime minister is proposing that this should change.’
But this is precisely what Cameron and the chiefs of the armed forces are not just proposing but intent on introducing. They want a regime where the military can rampage across the globe on behalf of imperialism, committing acts of murder and torture with complete immunity from the law.
The military are demanding an end to the exposure of their methods as a result of inquiries like that carried out on the role of killer squads in the north of Ireland throughout the 1970s and 80s, and being called to account for atrocities committed in Iraq.
However, the ruling class is determined that not just the military be placed above any rule of law but that this be extended to cover the police as well. In December, Cameron ordered a review into changing the law so that armed police engaged in ‘shoot to kill’ should have legal protection from prosecution.
This review was ordered immediately following the arrest of a police marksman after the fatal shooting of Jermaine Baker in Wood Green. In the past, most notably in 2004 following a verdict of unlawful killing, arising out of the police shooting an innocent man in 1999, armed police have threatened to strike, a tactic repeated after Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead at Stockwell tube station in 2005.
No police officer has ever been charged over these or the numerous other cases of police shooting unarmed people. But even this record is not enough for Cameron and the police; they are now demanding a complete licence to kill.
This has become a crucial issue, as the Tories launch 600 extra armed police onto city streets with shoot-to-kill orders under the guise of the war on terror. What is unfolding is not a war against terror but a war against the working class.
At the same time that it is ‘freeing’ the state forces from the law, and allowing them to get away with murder, the Tories are intent on using the law to emasculate the trade unions. Striking will be illegal while state murder will be perfectly legal as the capitalist state gears up for a revolutionary confrontation with the working class determined to fight for its rights in the face of the capitalist crisis.
This situation demands an immediate response from the unions. They must set about organising workers’ defence squads to defend the right of workers to strike and protect the working class from state violence.
This must go hand in hand with the organisation of a general strike to kick out the Tories and go forward to a workers government that will overthrow the capitalist state and replace it with a workers state and socialism.