Minister hints at plan to block military human rights lawsuits

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon this week caused controversy with claims that human rights laws had hampering military operations.

Addressing delegates at the Conservative Party Conference, Mr Fallon said that legal challenges over incidents in Iraq and Afghanistan had cost the taxpayer £85m.

The minister’s concern seems to stem from a number of court judgements, which have decreed that the European Convention on Human Right applies in warzones.

Last autumn, the right wing think tank Policy Exchange had warned that the increasing threat of legal action could “paralyse” the armed forces.

Speaking on the issue, Mr Fallon said: “We already have military law and we already have international humanitarian law, we certainly do not need European law in this area hamstringing the efforts of our armed forces in very dangerous situations, the efforts that they make to keep people safe, to detain suspected terrorists and so on.”

He said he would support plans being considered by the Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling, to limit the use of the legislation on the battlefield. This could ultimately prevent members of the military from mounting human rights lawsuits.

The announcement was one of several policies announced by Conservative cabinet members which have caused consternation among civil liberties groups.

Home Secretary Theresa May confirmed the intention of Tories to revive the so-called “snooper’s charter” to tackle terrorism. While David Cameron elaborated on proposals to replace the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights – as covered by this blog on Tuesday.

Tim Hancock, Amnesty UK’s campaigns director, said: “It’s exasperating to hear the Prime Minister vow to tear up the Human Rights Act again – so he can draft ‘his own’.

“Human rights are not in the gift of politicians to give. They must not be made a political plaything to be bestowed or scrapped on a whim.”

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