‘Free pass to commit war crimes’ – Amnesty slams army immunity from prosecution

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The body of 26-year-old iraqi hotel receptionist Baha Mousa, who died after being severely beaten by British troops, suffering 93 separate injuries – the Overseas Operations Bill seeks to restrict any prosecution of British soldiers

‘IT IS in no-one’s interests for members of the armed forces to be given a free pass over alleged war crimes’ said Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK’s Director, yesterday.

She was speaking ahead of the first proper hearing today on the government’s highly controversial Overseas Operations Bill.

‘This Bill comes with a weight of misinformation about the supposed need to prevent “vexatious” prosecutions,’ she said, ‘but this legislation will cause real and lasting damage to the reputation of the armed forces.

‘It is in no-one’s interests for members of the armed forces to be given a free pass over alleged war crimes – and that’s why even former senior military figures have spoken out against it.

‘What does it say about the UK’s armed forces to suggest that they need immunity from prosecution for acts of torture and other serious crimes?

‘The second part of the Bill, dressed up as protection for members of the military, actually shields MoD top brass and Ministers from cases brought by soldiers who have themselves been badly let down by their employers.

‘This Bill would make bad law and should be scrapped or very substantially amended.’

The Overseas Operations Bill seeks to restrict prosecutions against British soldiers serving abroad for torture and war crimes by introducing a ‘statutory presumption against prosecution’ after five years to apply to all forces personnel, including those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will also introduce a six year time limit for civil claims against the MoD. The Bill has come in for substantial criticism.