Here’s why the Overseas Operations Bill is pretty much an establishment stitch-up

Soldiers in a field
Joe Glenton

A top military lawyer has warned that the Tory war crimes immunity bill is not what it seems. On closer inspection, it looks more like a Ministry of Defence (MOD) cash-saving exercise. One that could rob wounded and sick soldiers of their right to compensation.

The criticism comes after new figures revealed that claims by military personnel against the military vastly exceed allegations of abuse from people in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On 18 October, shadow defence minister John Healey revealed statistics which show that for every single allegation of abuse by UK troops in a warzone, 25 cases were brought by service personnel against the military.

Healey warned that the proposed Overseas Operations Bill’s six year limit on bringing new claims would impede claims from military personnel and veterans for injuries sustained due to MOD negligence and wrongdoing.

The figures show that between 2004 and 2019, the military paid out £20m to victims of abuse at the hands of UK troops. At the same time serving and former personnel received an astonishing £752m for injuries in the line of duty.

“It clearly breaches the Armed Forces Covenant”

Moreover, top military lawyer Hilary Meredith has now intervened in the debate around the controversial bill. Her firm represents veterans and military personnel in cases against the MOD.

Meredith warned that Section 2 of the bill would damage personnel’s rights. This is the section of the bill which deals with liability. She said:

It is totally unacceptable for the Government to legislate to deny those who put their lives on the line for our country overseas the same employer liability rights as the UK civilians they defend. The section must be scrapped – it clearly breaches the Armed Forces Covenant.

She said that the government rhetoric around that section of the bill:

becomes more suspicious when we see the number of credible cases from our armed forces against the few vexatious claims by civilians under the Human Rights Act in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is a sad fact that there always seems to be a money-saving inspired motive with everything the MoD does – and the proposed six-year longstop on civil claims is no different.

Stitch-up

As The Canary has reported in recent weeks, the Overseas Operations Bill isn’t quite the patriotic defence of military personnel that the Tories claim it is.

Lawyers, former soldiers, and human rights organisations have ripped the bill to shreds in front the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee.

As time goes on, it looks more and more like an establishment stitch-up. One designed to protect the military hierarchy and British foreign policy at the expense of war crimes victims, the rule of international law, and the very British soldiers it claims to help.

Featured image via Elite Forces UK

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  • Show Comments
    1. A top solicitor? Hilary Meredith? I think the Canary should do a little more research (as per usual). Plenty of unsatisfied clients as a simple search would show. Funny how the Canary hates those in receipt of big salaries such as solicitors and politicians, unless those individuals support their narrative.
      Why do you think this lady wants the time limit extended not reduced? It’s so she can continue to line her pocket at the taxpayers expense. She doesn’t care about British soldiers or those people in foreign lands. Give your head a wobble!

    2. “War is the health of the State,” as the man said. The purpose of the State is to defend and further the interests of property. That’s why the development of the State has gone hand in hand with the development of capitalism. The Tory doctrine that capitalism is a system of markets which have no need of State intervention is denied by the simple facts: if the State were abolished tomorrow, what would happen to property? Without the police, the courts, the prison system, property can’t defend itself against poverty. As Bevan said, the matter resolves itself into this: either poverty will use democracy to destroy property or property, in fear of poverty, will destroy democracy. It’s the latter that’s happening. The paid soldier is a tool of the State. We take for granted the alarming fact that ordinary lasses and lads are supposed to risk their lives for the defence of wealth. Yes, of course, we had to fight Hitler, but what brought him to power? It follows logically that the State will not want to compensate soldiers for injuries. The capitalist State wants what capitalists want: the job done at the cheapest rate. As for the old lie “Dulce et decorum…” fairy tales for idiots. Take any war from the past 500 years, what was it fought for? In every case, what was at work were the interests of property. Which war was fought to lift the common folk out of poverty or oppression? Every conflict on the planet today is the outcome of the unprincipled pursuit of wealth. Not a pretty thing, when you look into it, as Conrad observed. The greatest gift the world’s leaders could give the common folk would be peace, which is why our present leaders are no good. Why State capitalism, USA style, Russian style, Chinese style is no good. Why a real democracy is urgently needed and why poor c….s should stop killing stupid c…….s for rich c…….s.

    3. Phew! UK soldiers really missed a bullet when Corbyn ‘lost’. That Forces-hating loon only intended to build new housing for them, set-up post-Service recruitment into non-mercenary careers, improve their welfare, and in all ways showed how he hated them.

      Whereas the ‘patriotic’ Tories, bless their souls, wish to remove more welfare, reduce social housing even further, and now even remove their (already limited) rights protecting them from abuses from WITHIN the military.

      And, needless to point out, change the Law so that serving spies can infiltrate and hijack any political movement for positive change those ex-soldiers join too. And they could even break the law – perhaps assassinate too troublesome former soldiers – without the slightest chance of prosecution.

      Well done Lads and Lasses! I’m sure this is exactly what you signed up for to protect with your lives.

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