MoD plans to grant veterans amnesty condemned by UN

May 17, 2019 Off By readly

Ministry of Defence plans to grant military veterans amnesty from prosecution for historic offences have been condemned by a United Nations body.

In sharply worded criticism, the Geneva-based UN committee against torture calls on the UK government to “refrain from enacting legislation that would grant amnesty or pardon” to troops accused of ill-treatment.

The intervention came only days after the defence secretary, Penny Mordaunt, announced proposals to give immunity for offences committed more than 10 years ago in Iraq, Afghanistan or anywhere outside the UK.

She also called for such legal protection to be extended to those who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles – a plan that has been resisted by the Northern Ireland Office.

The UN committee has produced a long list of recommendations but some of its toughest language is reserved for the MoD proposals.

It urges the UK to “establish responsibility and ensure accountability for any torture and ill-treatment committed by UK personnel in Iraq from 2003 to 2009, specifically by establishing a single, independent, public inquiry to investigate allegations of such conduct.

“The [UK] should refrain from enacting legislation that would grant amnesty or pardon where torture is concerned. It should also ensure that all victims of such torture and ill-treatment obtain redress.”

The committee says it is concerned “by recent statements by high-level officials that they are contemplating measures to shield former public officials from liability”.

In relation to “accountability for conflict-related violations in Northern Ireland”, it also says the government should “refrain from enacting amnesties or statutes of limitations for torture or ill-treatment, which the committee has found to be inconsistent with states parties’ obligations under the convention [against torture].”

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International UK’s Northern Ireland campaigns manager, said: “We call on the UK government to ensure there are no barriers to justice for all victims of Northern Ireland’s conflict and make clear there will be no amnesty for human rights abuses, including those committed by security forces.”

The UN committee also backs calls for an independent judge-led inquiry into renditions that involved “alleged acts of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees held overseas committed by, at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of British officials”.

A coalition of human rights organisations, including Liberty, Redress, Reprieve and Freedom from Torture, welcomed the finding, declaring that “the UK government has repeatedly broken its own deadlines for making an announcement on a torture inquiry”.

“Despite promising parliament on 2 July 2018 that it would update the house within 60 days on whether or not it would call such an inquiry, these 60 days came and went, and we are now at 320 days and counting.”

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