Labour clears the way: To Human Rights violations that will give the government a free pass on torture

Labour clears the way: To Human Rights violations and gives government free pass for torture

JVL Introduction

Nothing could illustrate more starkly the moral degradation of the parliamentary Labour Party under Keir Starmer’s leadership than the fact that only 18 Labour MP’s defied their leader’s orders to abstain in the vote last week on the second reading of the government’s Overseas Operations Bill, a bill which would effectively make members of the armed forces immune to prosecution for the most egregious war crimes committed abroad, including torture,  after the elapse of a mere five years. This is a bill which brazenly defies all civilised legal norms, and has been condemned by military leaders and voices from across the political spectrum. The bill has yet to return for its third reading.

Those few Labour MP’s with the courage to defy their leader’s chauvinist posturing included Jeremy Corbyn as well as three MP’s who have now lost their front bench positions as a consequence:  Nadia Whittome, Beth Winter, and Olivia Blake. JVL applauds the manifestation of human decency of all who oppose this bill, from whichever  party.

For the original article in Labour Heartlands see here.  An article by Bell Ribeiro-Addy can be found here


This article was originally published by Labour Heartlands on Fri 25 Sep 2020. Read the original here.

Labour clears the way: To Human Rights violations that will give the government a free pass on torture

Sir Keir Starmer sacks Labour MP Nadia Whittome for voting against government free pass for torture

Sir Keir Starmer sacked a Labour MP for voting against the government’s plans to exempt UK troops from prosecution for war crimes and torture.

When a bemused Peston asked whether she “expected to be asked to resign,” the MP struggled to respond, only saying: “Well, um…”

The ITV political host followed: “The whip was that you should all abstain, but you voted with Jeremy Corbyn against this bill.”

Ms Whittome explained: “There was a one-line whip to abstain. I thought the bill was a matter of conscience.

“I understand why colleagues came to a different conclusion and thought they could amend it at committee stage. That is reasonable.

Nadia Whittome, parliament’s youngest MP, confirmed in a statement that she had been “stood down” from her role as a parliamentary private secretary after opposing the Overseas Operations Bill.

Two other MPs, Beth Winter and Olivia Blake, also voluntarily stood down from similar roles to vote against the legislation, which Amnesty International says will give war criminals “a free pass”.

Labour Civil War

The former party leader along with 17 other Labour MPs all voted against the Government’s Overseas Operations Bill, despite being told to abstain. Three Labour frontbenchers joined Mr Corbyn in defying Sir Keir. The Bill would make exemptions from the European Convention on Human Rights in relation to Armed Forces personnel.

Labour MPs were instructed to abstain on the vote, neither giving their support for or against the Bill.

Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey had told MPs during a parliamentary debate today that current Government legislation relating to British troops serving overseas “creates the risk that the very gravest crimes including torture and other war crimes go unpunished”.

Speaking about the Overseas Operations Bill, he added the legislation “calls into question Britain’s proud commitment to the Geneva Convention” and “our moral authority”.

The new legislation has been slammed by human rights groups and some senior armed forces figures, including General Sir Nicholas Parker Commander in Chief, Land Forces 2010-2012. He argued that the bill would risk the UK being seen as holding itself to “double standards”.

This bill is not about protecting troops but taking away their rights

Bell Ribeiro-Addy writes: Clearly, this bill is not really about protecting veterans, which is why it has no support from senior legal military figures. Judge Advocate General Jeff Blackett – Britain’s most senior military judge, who was not even consulted before this legislation was published – has called on the Defence Secretary to “think again” about these “ill-conceived” proposals.

The government claims that this is about patriotism and standing up for our military personnel, but its bill would actually restrict the time in which soldiers can make claims against the Ministry of Defence. How exactly does this support troops who face conditions such as PTSD years later? If this government really cared about UK veterans, it would do something to address the plight of the thousands of veterans left to sleep rough on the streets or failed by inadequate mental health services.

The real thrust of this bill is twofold. Firstly, to shield the MoD and government from being held to account for their foreign adventures. Secondly, perhaps the key strand of the Dominic Cummings-Boris Johnson project, to concentrate power in the hands of the executive. Enabling the Attorney General to decide whether accusations merit prosecution is putting what should be an independent prosecutorial decision in the hands of a political appointee. In other words, allowing the government to mark their own homework.

Sir Keir Starmer made ten pledges that he would stand by as Labour Leader if elected pledge No. 4…

  1. Promote peace and human rights

Sir Keir Starmer made ten pledges if he was to be elected, this bill breaks Pledge No. 4. “Promote peace and human rights No more illegal wars. Introduce a Prevention of Military Intervention Act and put human rights at the heart of foreign policy. Review all UK arms sales and make us a force for international peace and justice.”

Keir Starmer 10 pledges

No more illegal wars. Introduce a Prevention of Military Intervention Act and put human rights at the heart of foreign policy. Review all UK arms sales and make us a force for international peace and justice.

In current form, Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill effectively decriminalises torture, violates essential rule of law principles such as judicial and prosecutorial independence, and defies international human rights law.

It would mean soldiers cannot be prosecuted for war crimes if five years have passed since the alleged date of the incident. Given the time scale involved with reporting most war crimes, this would provide British soldiers with de facto immunity for acts of torture and other breaches of the Geneva Convention.

Julian Perreira a UK veteran states: Many still serving in the ranks won’t realise the battle they’ll have on their hands if they ever need to take on the government if they ever get injured during an operational tour, diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or even worse for their loved ones, dead – through any MoD negligence.

Lots of former UK Armed Forces personnel and veterans have unfortunately resorted to suicide because of how badly they’re being treated by Veterans UK, when it comes to seeking damages from the MoD.

Any decent employer should have the health and wellbeing of its employees, first and foremost.

More importantly, all employers are legally responsible for keeping its people safe.

We know the risks when we choose to wear the country’s uniform, but when it comes to injuries sustained through MoD negligence or injuries caused whilst serving, which then end your career and means you having to suffer with lifelong suffering or pain, the Ministry of Defence should be held to account, just like any other employer.

Why should the MoD have any such dispensation like they’re proposing in this bill?

Even under the current law, it is a real struggle to receive the help, compensation and support that you deserve.

This proposed bill, just gives the MoD the legislation to wipe its hands clean after military personnel have left service.

I’d highly suggest that you read the following briefing note from The Centre For Military Justice

This is a bad bill and Starmer as an ex-human rights lawyer should have been fighting this tooth and nail.

Comments (8)

  • David Hawkins says:

    I believe there has been far too little discussion on the left about the related issue of what the British armed forces are doing engaging in military adventures in the Middle East and now the Far East. For example why does Britain maintain military bases on Cyprus, whose only purpose is to support regime change in places like Iraq and Afghanistan ? Our recent adventures have made a bad situation even worse and have been a collosal waste of money. The only purpose of two collosal aircraft carriers (approved by New Labour) is to support a neo colonial military. If British soldiers intervene in cultures they don’t understand, human rights abuses are almost inevitable. Comrades will remember that a right wing section of the PLP blocked an investigation into Britain’s role in supporting the Saudi Islamic fascists starve Yemeni children to death.
    So I would I would urge comrades to see the wider picture. A Labour leader who is soft on human rights abuses by British soldiers is also likely to be an enthusiastic supporter of a neo colonial British military. Billions wasted annoying the Chinese to no particular purpose are billions that cannot be spent on hospitals, schools and decent housing.

  • Mary Davies says:

    I have no respect whatsoever for SKS. I am proud of those who voted against this Bill.

  • michael levine says:

    Under this bill will a soldier who refuses to carry out human rights violations,such as participating in torture or massacering civilians etc., be subjectto punishmentfor disobeying an order in the face of the enemy.

  • Martyn Meacham says:

    Starmer is a total disgrace. He and his self serving, two faced traitors robbed Labour of the chance to be in office, just because they hate a decent man that has socialist leanings, that wants to genuinely help people. Starmer and the traitors must be kicked out of the Labour Party.

  • ian kemp says:

    same here Starmer is now revealing his true colours

  • Derek Taylor says:

    This latest situation added to Starmer’s refusal to answer my many pleas for confirmation of the party’s stand against the Likud government’s treatment of Palestinians has made me rethink my 50 years of loyalty to Labour. I desperately fear for the future of our party.

  • rc says:

    Why does David Hawkins assume that British military persecution of people with cultures they (or their commanding NCOs and officers) do understand, is benign? Look at Derry and Ballymurphy, to name but two tips of the iceberg of murder and torture inflicted on the people of the Six Counties?

    We need a Campaign for Armed Forces Democracy as well as the excellent Campaign for Military Justice. (report in this thread), which all should study and endorse.

    Social scientists from at least Evans-Pritchard onwards have played a disgusting role in infiltrating and betraying the ‘natives’ they study. Look at the Kings College London military psychiatrists’ role in the persecution of Julian Assange (linked by Craig Murray’s reports).

    The pretence of ‘supporting our boys (and girls)’ against democratic critics and juridical exposers of UK’s unprovoked aggressions and oppressions is a paltry excuse for those aggressions and, as the CMJ points out, reduces the feeble protections against oppression by officers and the MoD.

  • chris baker says:

    This is astonishing! Physical and mental torture ( as well as being against the universal protection of human rights) is proven to be counter productive..

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