Monday, February 15, 2021

Armed Forces Bill 2021 -- Centre for Military Justice weighs in

The Centre for Military Justice, a British NGO, has weighed in on the UK's Armed Forces Bill 2021. Its website has this statement. Excerpt:
Very regrettably, the clause does not give any indication about whether certain types of offences occurring in the United Kingdom should be dealt with in one system or another. It is absolutely vital that it should. The Lyons Review recommended that murder, manslaughter, rape, sexual assault by penetration, domestic abuse and child abuse alleged to have occurred inside the UK should be dealt with by the civil justice system, not the service justice system. These are offences that disproportionately affect women and the women we represent have direct experience of them and want their cases to be dealt with in a civil court. This clause does not go nearly far enough and MPs are strongly urged to use the debate to support the Lyons Review recommendations which were the product of two years of careful, evidence-based analysis. HHJ [Shaun] Lyons’ recommendations also reflected the clear intention of the Government and Parliament when it passed the law in 2006, which made clear that it was not their intention that offences such as rape, where they occurred in the UK, should be handled in the service justice system at all. We hope an amendment will be tabled that would create a presumption that certain types of serious offences, where they occur in the UK, should proceed in the civil not the service justice system, thus returning the system to that which Parliament had originally intended.
Sadly, there is nothing in the Bill about the kinds of reforms that might help the Government address the serious criticisms of the Overseas Operations Bill. In particular, the Lyons Review (policing report) urged that consideration be given to enabling civilian police investigators to deploy in support of the service police when engaged in the very difficult task of investigating serious crime overseas. This would help address one of the fundamental criticisms of the Overseas Operations Bill, which is that it does not address the cause of all the re-investigations and litigation following the war in Iraq – which was poor quality, one-sided (or even non-existent) investigations by commanding officers or service police, of serious allegations of abuse.
Nor is there anything in the Bill about the appointment of independent judges who could oversee and review detention decisions overseas, particularly when dealing with insurgents, providing oversight and protection for the detainee, and lawful authority and legal protection to soldiers making difficult decisions on the ground. This has been recommended by several commentators on the Bill and remains notably absent.

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