Veterans and bereaved military families urge the new PM to scrap the Bill of Rights

05th Sep 2022

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2022/09/04/bill-rights-will-remove-rights-armed-forces/

‘The Human Rights Act enabled us to seek truth, justice, and accountability, on behalf of ourselves and our loved ones. It has also served as an important and necessary safeguard against abuse of power, which is entirely consistent with the ethos, values and standards that we or our loved ones were proud to sign up to.’

On Sunday, the Telegraph reported that a number of veterans and families had written to the new Prime Minister and Justice Secretary to urge them to scrap the Bill of Rights and keep the Human Rights Act:

September 2022

To the future Prime Minister and Justice Secretary,

We are a group of serving and former members of the Armed Forces or their bereaved families. We are writing to express our concerns about the Government’s plan to repeal and replace the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) with the Bill of Rights Bill (BOR).

For the past two decades, the Human Rights Act has been a vital tool for everyone in the UK to uphold our rights. In the aftermath of unthinkable and devastating tragedy, the Human Rights Act enabled us to seek truth, justice, and accountability, on behalf of ourselves and our loved ones. It has also served as an important and necessary safeguard against abuse of power, which is entirely consistent with the ethos, values and standards that we or our loved ones were proud to sign up to.

Echoing the concerns voiced by cross-party parliamentarians, civil society groups, the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and hundreds of thousands of people across the country, we believe that repealing and replacing the Human Rights Act with what amounts to little more than a Rights Removal Bill will have devastating consequences for individuals, families, and communities like ours across the country. For this reason, we urge you to scrap this plan, and retain the Human Rights Act as your first act.

Positive obligations

We are incredibly concerned at clause 5, which will erode positive obligations. Positive obligations are the steps that public bodies must take to protect human rights. This includes the duty to protect people in certain situations, and the duty to investigate deaths involving the state. Clause 5 could prevent families like those of the young soldiers who died at Deepcut barracks amid allegations of serious bullying and abuse, the soldiers who died as a result of unsafe equipment (known as the ‘Snatch Land Rover’ case), and the late Corporal Anne-Marie Ellement who died after reporting rape and bullying – members of whom are signatories to this letter – from securing admissions, apologies from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and wider meaningful reforms that have made the forces better and have saved lives.

Overseas military operations

We are also very concerned by clause 14 of the Rights Removal Bill, which will ban human rights cases in relation to overseas military operations. This will remove protections for civilians in the territories our forces operate in, but also the ability to ensure our soldiers can serve abroad safely.

Clause 14 would prevent a survivor of rape during an overseas military operation from challenging a poor military police investigation, or from bringing a human rights claim for compensation.

Regrettably, we know military policing is not all we would like it to be and this clause would remove a vital avenue of redress for vulnerable victims. It would also mean that cases like the one brought by the family of Baha Mousa, killed in British custody in Iraq, would not be able to proceed. If you think that the overwhelming majority of service personnel or their families would wish to turn a blind eye to terrible incidents like that, then you are mistaken.

Eroding human rights standards

Section 3 of the HRA requires the courts and public bodies to comply with human rights in their performance of their functions. A veteran successfully used section 3 to argue that the MoD should not be able to discriminate against her on the basis of her disability. In scrapping section 3, the Rights Removal Bill will undermine our ability to hold public bodies like the MoD to account. She is a signatory to this letter, too.

Among the signatories of this letter are people who have fought for our rights to be upheld, not only for our own and our loved ones’ sakes, but for the wider reform and continual improvement of the institutions we serve – precisely because we believe in their importance and value.

For its vital role in securing protection for individuals, justice for families, and positive change in the Armed Forces, we urge you to scrap the Bill of Rights and retain the Human Rights Act.

We would be grateful if you could please confirm receipt by responding to the email address through which this letter has been sent, and would also welcome any response you have to our concerns.

Signed

Tracy Lewis, sister of the late Pte Sean Benton who died at Deepcut

Des and Doreen James, parents of the late Pte Cheryl James who died at Deepcut

Diane Gray, mother of the late Pte Geoff Gray who died at Deepcut

Yvonne Collinson-Heath and Jim Collinson, parents of the late Pte James Collinson who died at Deepcut

Sharon Hardy, sister of the late Cpl Anne-Marie Ellement who died amid allegations of rape and bullying

Linda Ketcher, mother of the late LCpl James Ross who died amid concerns at the mental health care provided to young soldiers

Ms Carol Mitchell, mother of the late Rfn Darren Mitchell who died amid concerns at the mental health care provided to young soldiers

Mrs Beth Mongan, widow of the late LCpl Bernard Mongan who died in 2020

Alison Blackwell, mother of the late Rfn Nathan Worner who died in 2020

Angela Robinson, mother of the late LCpl Joel Robinson who died in 2019 after reporting bullying in the Army

Jo Jukes, CEO of For the Fallen, a not-for-profit supporting the bereaved through military suicide

Joe Ousalice, a Naval veteran who was dismissed from the Royal Navy on the basis of his sexuality

‘Q’, a former soldier who brought a legal challenge of the MoD’s policy on the handling of military

rape

‘S’, a soldier who challenged the MoD’s refusal to compel commanding officers to refer all sexual assault allegations to the police; and the MoD’s failure to set up an independent complaints system for military policing

‘T’, a disabled Naval veteran

Lt Col (Ret’d) Diane Allen OBE

Brig (Ret’d) John Donnelly CBE

Craig Jones and Caroline Paige, joint CEOs of Fighting with Pride, the charity for LGBT+ service personnel and veterans

Rev Nicholas Mercer, former Command Legal Adviser for the HQ 1st UK Armoured Division

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2022/09/04/bill-rights-will-remove-rights-armed-forces/

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