The Overseas Operations Bill is a controversial piece of legislation currently going through the House of Lords.
The Bill forms part of the U.K. government’s response to what it describes as the judicialization of war: the extension of human rights norms to overseas combat operations and the birth of a litigation industry that has unleashed a torrent of “vexatious claims” against British forces. The bill is designed to address this problem in three steps. First, it creates a statutory presumption against the prosecution of alleged offenses committed by members of the British armed forces when deployed on operations outside of the British Islands more than five years ago. Criminal proceedings relating to such incidents may go ahead only in “exceptional” circumstances and require the consent of the attorney general. Second, it restricts the courts’ ability to extend the time limits for bringing claims relating to personal injuries or deaths sustained during overseas operations. Finally, it imposes a duty on the secretary of state to consider derogating from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in relation to “significant” overseas deployments.
The Bill has drawn fire from an unlikely coalition of retired military leaders, seasoned defence commentators, former government lawyers and human rights experts. Field Marshal Lord Guthrie, former Chief of the Defence Staff, expressed his dismay that the bill would let “torturers off the hook.” Michael Clarke, former director-general of the Royal United Services Institute, has argued that the proposals “fly in the face of international legal norms.” Almost a dozen United Nations human rights special rapporteurs and experts have declared the bill to violate the “UK’s obligations under international humanitarian law, human rights law and international criminal law.”
Obviously there is always big moral debate about the ethics of what is acceptable in war and we welcome anyone to come debate which will be led by Ben Grant, who has a background in human rights and is a legal aid solicitor.
You need not have any expertise, just a desire to debate and discuss.
Please RSVP by Thursday 11th. Zoom details will be sent out by email before the event.