. . . [M]ilitary law experts warned that suspending the ECHR could allow genuine abuse cases to be covered up and let Britain build Guantanamo-style prison camps abroad. Critics also noted that the move would do nothing to protect soldiers subject to the threat of legal action over past conflicts, such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
In addition, it emerged that the government would have to win votes in the Commons and the Lords before every suspension, placing doubt over whether the move would be as effective as ministers claim. The requirement for parliamentary approval is because the ECHR is incorporated into the UK Human Rights Act.
Sir Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, will seek to address some of the likely criticism in his speech to the Conservative conference today. Aides said he would make clear that British soldiers fighting abroad would still be covered by the Geneva Convention and other international laws as well as service law. “Our legal system has been abused to level false charges against our troops on an industrial scale. It has caused significant distress to people who risked their lives to protect us, it has cost the taxpayer millions and there is a real risk it will stop our armed forces doing their job,” Sir Michael will say. The move would ensure troops “can confidently take difficult decisions on the battlefield”.
The army’s former chief legal adviser in Iraq said genuine cases of abuse in Iraq would never have come to light had it not been for the ECHR, however. “The convention holds the state to account,” said Nicholas Mercer, the former lieutenant-colonel who became an Anglican priest after leaving the army.Action remains pending against two law firms (one of which has closed its doors) accused of pursuing unfounded claims.