Rights groups, opposition parties in the UK oppose bill claiming it provides amnesty to war crimes

The controversial Overseas Operations Bill will provide partial amnesty to soldiers if the case is filed after five years from the date of the crime or if the investigation is not completed within five years

August 28, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Credit : Press TV

Human rights groups have come out in opposition to a proposed bill in the United Kingdom’s parliament which they allege provides amnesty to the armed forces involved in serious violation of human rights during overseas deployments. The controversial Overseas Operations Bill will be presented in the UK’s parliament next month by the Conservative Party government.

Human rights groups and the opposition Labour Party have argued that provisions of the bill restrict prosecution of torture and war crimes by the British soldiers deployed in foreign countries including Iraq and Afghanistan. The proposed bill will provide partial amnesty to soldiers alleged to be involved in kidnapping, torture, killings and other kind of harassment of civilians if the case is filed after five years from the date of the purported crime or if the ongoing investigation is not completed within five years.

The Labour Party MP and shadow defense minister John Healy has written a letter to the defense minister Ben Wallace asking him to halt the introduction of the bill. Healy argues that the proposed bill undermines international laws including Geneva Convention and UN human rights regimes.

The bill was published for first reading in May this year. The bill has been prepared to fulfill one of the election promises of the ruling Conservative Party who had promised to save the armed forces from “vexatious legal claims.”

Talking to the Guardian, Don Dala, deputy director of Reprieve, a human rights group said, “the bill would effectively decriminalise acts of torture,” the fight against which goes back to the 17th century. Liberty, another human rights group, called for the scrapping of the proposed bill as it goes against international human rights regimes.  

Thousands of claims and legal actions are processed against the British soldiers in different parts of the world every year for various human rights violations including torture and other war crimes. Large number of cases have been filed by Iraqi civilians against the British forces deployed in the country since the US-led invasion in 2003. According to an article published in the Middle East Eye, Britain’s ministry of defense has revealed the cases against the British soldiers serving in Iraq have skyrocketed post 2017.

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