THE HOUSE of Lords today will be debating the Overseas Operations Bill which gives the British military a licence to kill and torture throughout the world free from any threat of prosecution.
The Bill creates a legal and binding ‘presumption against prosecution’ for any current or former UK military personnel if more than five years have passed since the alleged offence occurred.
The Bill also states that any prosecution of alleged war crimes would be ‘exceptional’ and in the unlikely event that any prosecution is even considered ‘particular weight’ must be given to factors that reduce the accused’s culpability.
The Bill similarly demands that ‘particular weight’ is given to the public interest in pursuing any criminal proceedings for crimes committed by UK forces overseas.
The UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission has pointed out that the Bill is incompatible with international law saying:
‘The proposed “presumption against prosecution” amounts to a statute of limitations and would be applicable to torture and ill-treatment, and in principle to international crimes including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity – something that is widely seen as incompatible with the international human rights framework.’
The Bill will not only bring in a five-year statute of limitation for crimes of murder, torture and other atrocities committed by UK forces abroad but it also provides the means for prosecutions for any more recent crimes to be swept away.All the military has to do is delay any investigation and hang it out for five years and then total immunity kicks in.
The Tories of course are completely indifferent to the ICC which has never brought any imperialist power to account for war crimes committed in the past and that are being carried out regularly today.
Even this Bill doesn’t go far enough and ‘fails to protect troops’, according to the former Director of Special Forces Lt General Sir Graeme Lamb.
Writing in a foreward to a paper produced by the right-wing Policy Exchange think-tank, Lamb is demanding amendments to the Bill that the Human Rights Act of 1998 should be changed ‘to limit sharply its extraterritorial application’ and exempt overseas military operations from any UK human rights laws.
Clearly it is not just historic atrocities committed in Iraq, Afghanistan and the other regions of the world where British imperialism has carried out its murderous wars that is driving this Bill.
UK military forces are involved in training military forces in over 150 countries around the world in the black arts developed and honed by British imperialism over its years of imperialist domination of the world.
Along with ‘training’, British forces have been up to their neck in the genocidal war being waged by the reactionary Saudi Arabian regime in the Yemen.
As well as arming the Saudis, British specialists have been at the heart of directing and choosing the sights for the drone attacks that have killed thousands of men women and children.
The same immunity that the capitalist state is demanding for its forces abroad has also been given to the police and spies at home.
Last year the Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill was passed through the House of Commons with the support of the Labour leadership.
In the interest of national security to prevent ‘disorder’ and in the ‘interests of the economic well-being of the United Kingdom’ state forces were given a ‘licence to kill’ with total immunity from prosecution for crimes – including murder, rape and torture – committed in defence of the economic interests of the ruling class.
The powers of the state are being increased to prepare for workers in Britain rising up against the savage austerity cuts the Tories are intending to make to save a collapsing capitalist system.
British imperialism in its crisis is preparing its state forces for a brutal war at home and abroad.
The only way forward for the working class is to put an end to the war crimes of imperialism by seizing power and carrying out a socialist revolution to overthrow capitalism, smash the state apparatus, disband the police and army and establish a workers government and a workers state.