UK government: derogation from ECHR would protect British soldiers from human rights litigation

The Defense Secretary Michael Fallon (pictured right) will today announce plans to allow parts of the European Convention on Human Rights to be suspended during military conflicts.

Ahead of his speech at the Conservative Party conference, Mr Fallon claimed the legal system had “been abused”.

He said false charges had been levelled against UK troops “on an industrial scale”, adding: “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.”

Under the proposed policy, the UK would “derogate” from some of its ECHR obligations during future conflicts, subject to a vote of approval in both Houses of Parliament.

Article 15 of the ECHR allows for states to derogate “in a temporary, limited and supervised manner” from their obligations, but “only in time of war or other public emergency threatening the life of the nation”.

Prime Minister Theresa May has said the change in policy would end an “industry of vexatious claims” against current and former soldiers.

The move has been condemned by human rights group Liberty.

Martha Spurrier, director of Liberty (pictured right), said: “The government cannot be allowed to leave its human rights commitments at our borders. Doing so will leave abuse victims unprotected and our troops powerless when the state fails to keep them safe from harm.

“The Convention on Human Rights isn’t just a document whose origins lie in the brutal lessons of 20th century wars. It is directly relevant today. Our government has a duty not only to implement it during its own military operations, but to uphold its standards as an example to others – both friends and foes.

“To save the Ministry of Defence from the shame of having to admit that civilians suffered abuse on its watch, ministers are prepared to rob our soldiers of this sensible legal framework that both clarifies their use of force and offers them redress when their own rights are breached.

“For a supposedly civilised nation, this is a pernicious and retrograde step that will embolden our enemies and alienate our allies.”