The European Convention on Human Rights and the British Army

At the 2016 Conservative Party Conference, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon confirmed government plans to derogate from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in future armed conflicts in order to protect soldiers from “spurious” legal claims.

The briefing provides Labour MPs and members with some background to this issue, an overview of the relevant legal framework and the proposed derogation, and our suggestions for how to frame the debate when speaking to members of the public.

LCHR recommends highlighting three key points when speaking to constituents about this issue:

  • The UK is bound by other international and domestic standards to respect human rights in wartime. Derogating from the ECHR would not derogate from these other provisions, but it would send a clear message to the rest of the world that our commitment to human rights is weakening.
  • Our human rights laws have been used to protect and uphold the rights of soldiers serving abroad. Following the invasion of Iraq, the Ministry of Defence has been held to account for inadequate training and resource provision to the British Army and compensation has been paid to the families of victims. The removal of international human rights standards risks removing human rights protection for our troops.
  • Finally, we should be proud to have a military that respects human rights standards. It is key to the integrity of and respect for our Armed Forces. The government’s plans rest on the misguided view that our soldiers are not capable of or willing to abide by these standards and we must therefore remove them. The vast majority of members of the British Army are dedicated to maintaining these high standards and see it is part of their responsibility to remain humane whilst fighting against inhumanity.

We hope that this briefing will be helpful in light of the government’s proposal to derogate from the ECHR and their commitment to scrapping the Human Rights Act. To download in full click here.