Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
Military personnel must be held accountable for crimes committed overseas, warns human rights body
The Government should withdraw plans that could make it more difficult to hold UK military personnel to account for crimes, including torture and ill-treatment, committed overseas, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has said.
In a follow-up report to the United Nations Committee against Torture (CAT), the EHRC has expressed significant concerns that the Overseas Operations Bill, introduced by the Government in March 2020, would create a time limit for claims of torture or ill-treatment, which is widely recognised as being incompatible with international human rights standards.
The EHRC has pressed for the Government to withdraw proposals that would prevent a criminal case being brought against members of the UK forces after five years, without special consent from the Attorney General. It has also highlighted that in June 2019, CAT specifically recommended that the UK should not introduce legislation which would grant amnesty or pardon for UK personnel where torture is concerned.
Caroline Waters, Interim Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:
“A crime is a crime. Torture and ill-treatment is deplorable. Individuals guilty of such acts should not be able to escape justice purely because they are in the military.
“This Bill would make it more difficult to hold UK military personnel to account and would stop victims from seeking redress.
“There would never be a time limit set to bring cases for such serious crimes if they were committed outside of the armed forces.
“This is an opportunity for the Government to show global leadership on human rights, especially as it re-applies to sit on the Human Rights Council.”
The EHRC submission specifically focuses on the accountability for any torture and ill-treatment committed by UK personnel in Iraq from 2003 to 2009.
It also includes recommendations that, if implemented, would see the UK strengthen its commitment to the international human rights framework and the Convention against Torture. It recommends that the UK Government:
- Incorporate international human rights treaties into domestic law, so that individuals can effectively challenge alleged breaches of their human rights in domestic courts. (UK and Welsh Government only)
- Reconsider its decision not to set up full, independent judge-led inquiries into allegations of torture committed by British military personnel in Iraq between 2003 and 2009, and into allegations of British involvement, including by means of complicity, in the mistreatment of detainees held by other governments. Any inquiries should be able to secure relevant evidence to hold alleged perpetrators to account, and they should examine systemic issues so that lessons learned can inform future practice.
- The UK’s guidance for British intelligence officers and service personnel should be amended to stop any engagement with detainees in the custody of foreign intelligence services wherever there is a risk of the person being tortured or ill-treated.
- The Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office’s draft proposed principles, commissioned by then Prime Minister Theresa May and consulted on in 2018, should be published to show which recommendations the Government accepted.
- Establish a National Mechanism for Implementation, Reporting and Follow-up (NMIRF). Such a body would ensure a co-ordinated, effective approach to reporting to, and engaging with, human rights reviews and make sure that the UK’s human rights obligations are carried out.
The full report, including recommendations, has been submitted to CAT as part of the sixth periodic report of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.
For more press information contact the Commission's media office on:
0161 829 8102
07767 272 818 (out of hours)
Latest News from
Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
EHRC urges governments to work together on gender recognition reform05/10/2022 13:10:00
In January this year, we called for more detailed consideration of proposals to reform the legal gender recognition process in Scotland.
Our response to allegations about mistreatment of people in Edenfield Centre Mental Health Unit30/09/2022 13:10:00
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has a duty to enforce equality laws and defend human rights. We therefore consider all allegations of unlawful activities carefully and take action where necessary.
Equality watchdog takes action to address discrimination in use of artificial intelligence02/09/2022 16:05:00
The use of artificial intelligence by public bodies is to be monitored by Britain’s equality regulator to ensure technologies are not discriminating against people.
Health Department’s plan for detained patients falls well short of what’s needed27/07/2022 15:10:00
Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission Marcial Boo responded to the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) Building Better Support plan to address the number of patients inappropriately detained in secure hospitals
28 organisations yet to report gender pay gap data06/07/2022 14:10:00
One-stop shopping giant Costco and aviation business Swissport are among 28 organisations that are yet to comply with their legal obligation and report their gender pay gap data for 2021–22, following the 30 March and 4 April deadlines.
Report finds evidence of inequality in treatment of ethnic minority ‘Covid heroes’ working in health and social care09/06/2022 14:25:00
Lower-paid health and social care workers, who played a pivotal front-line role during the COVID-19 pandemic, experienced bullying, racism and harassment at work according to their evidence to an inquiry conducted by Britain’s equality regulator, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
EHRC to investigate Pontins over fears of racial discrimination against Gypsies and Travellers26/05/2022 14:15:00
Britain’s equality regulator has launched a formal investigation into Pontins holiday parks due to continued concerns about discrimination against Gypsies and Travellers.
EHRC statement on ‘long Covid’, disability and the Equality Act10/05/2022 11:33:00
EHRC statement given yesterday on ‘long Covid’, disability and the Equality Act.