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Sep 30 · Last update 9 days ago.

Is the UK government trying to legalise torture?

UK parliament voted through the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill in September 2020 in its initial vote in the House of Commons, the bill promises to end ‘vexatious’ prosecutions of soldiers. Critics, as high profile as Professor Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, have argued that this bill bends the rules surrounding torture, while proponents argue its protects veteran soldiers. Torture has been prohibited under international humanitarian and human rights legislation, such as the Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention Against Torture, which were established following the Second World War. The bill still needs to go through two more stages before becoming law, being debated in the House of Lords and again in the House of Commons, but is the UK's Overseas Operations Bill an attempt to legalise international military torture?
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UK government are trying to decriminalise torture
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Trying to protect military personnel
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Just the latest turn in Britain’s long history of torture
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Government is trying to protect itself
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UK government are trying to decriminalise torture

The Overseas Operations Bill has been near universally criticised; the Equality and Human Rights Commission, a UK based human rights watchdog, called on the government to withdraw its support for the bill, while Amnesty International UK claimed the bill would cause lasting repetitional damage to British Armed Forces. Even many former military personnel have demonstrated their opposition to the bill. The country’s most senior former soldier Charles Guthrie, former defence and foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind and former head of military prosecutions Bruce Holder, wrote a joint letter to the prime minister claiming the bill sends a damaging signal to the world.

Likewise even Conservative members of parliament have spoke out, for example former cabinet minister David Davis has said that he was “deeply troubled by the government's plans to decriminalise torture by British personnel” [1]. However support for the bill goes beyond Boris Johnson's Tory government, with the new Labour opposition under Sir Keir Starmer abstaining on the bill’s vote and even sacking Labour MP Nadia Whittome for defying the whip and voting against the Overseas Operations Bill. This lack of opposition and a Tory majority in the house of commons means that this criminal loosening of human rights violations is likely to go ahead in Britain.

[1] trtworld.com/magazine/uk-government-pushes-bill-to-decriminalise-torture-by-troops-overseas-40032 dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8768597/Labour-MP-Nadia-Whittome-learns-shes-SACKED-party-role.html youtube.com/watch?v=jk5bheKnP_c

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Oct 23
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[1] https://www.trtworld.com/magazine/uk-government-pushes-bill-to-decriminalise-torture-by-troops-overseas-40032 https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8768597/Labour-MP-Nadia-Whittome-learns-shes-SACKED-party-role.html https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jk5bheKnP_c

Trying to protect military personnel

The Overseas Operations Bill will help to end harassment of the country's military officers. The bill's proponents are concerned about the large number of former soldier who face faced years of criminal investigations, accused of unlawful killing of Iraqi civilians during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, this treatment has been described as "lawfare". The Ministry of Defence has long condemned what it referred to as opportunistic legal proceedings against UK armed forces veterans, during the Iraq War around a thousand compensation claims were lodged against the MoD for cases of unlawful detention, personal injury and death. This is in addition to the 1,400 judicial reviews calling for investigations and compensation over alleged human rights violations that the MoD has been faced with.

Johnny Mercer, the Minister for Defence People and Veterans, said the Overseas Operations Bill would “put an end to lawfare” and help make the UK “the best place in the world to be a veteran” [1]. The "triple lock" structure of the bill clearly establishes protections for the mental health of veterans, protecting them from the many false claims that are being made, and doesn't cover cases of rape and sexual violence for example. As this issue was a campaign promise of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, pledging to end witch hunts against troops in the run up to the general election, it is likely this law will go through if it passes in the House of Lords, with the Conservative Party enjoying a parliamentary majority.

[1] trtworld.com/magazine/uk-government-pushes-bill-to-decriminalise-torture-by-troops-overseas-40032 thesun.co.uk/news/11195540/troops-historical-witch-hunts-prosecution-limit

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D H
Oct 23
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DH edited this paragraph
The Overseas Operations Bill will help to end harassment of the country's military officers. The bill's proponents are concerned about the large number of former soldier who face faced years of criminal investigations, accused of unlawful killing of Iraqi civilians during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, this treatment has been described as "lawfare". The Ministry of Defence has long condemned what it referred to as opportunistic legal proceedings against UK armed forces veterans, during the Iraq War around a thousand compensation claims were lodged against the MoD for cases of unlawful detention, personal injury and death. This is in addition to the 1,400 judicial reviews calling for investigations and compensation over alleged human rights violations that the MoD has been faced with.

Just the latest turn in Britain’s long history of torture

Despite the UK being well ahead of many other European nations in abolishing the use of torture, and torture being contrary to common law for several centuries now, the UK has a long continuing history of the use of torture techniques, a history it has been quite effective at covering up. The common claim by the UK, when cases of torture become public knowledge, is one of exceptional circumstances, but a pattern emerges far beyond recent well publicised cases of torture, for example the use of "advanced interrogation" by British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, far from exceptional circumstances looking back at the history of torture in Britain we will see British forces have been instrumental in the modern use of torture, both using it extensively and exporting torture techniques to allies in the form of "The Five Techniques" (also known as Deep-Interrogation).

From Arab Investigation Centres of the 1930s in Mandate Palestine, to Viper Island of the Andaman Islands during British colonialism, the UK authorities have always reserved space for torture during any "exception circumstances" that arise. Torture continued throughout the 20th century, with Camp 020 at Latchmere House and The London Cage at Kensington Palace Gardens being used to torture German POWs during the Second World War. But it was during Operation Demetrius in Northern Ireland in the 1970s that the Five Techniques of deprivation of sleep, food and drink, stress positions, hooding and subjection to ‘white noise’ (loud static) were developed, techniques taught internationally by British forces. This is in addition to a litany of failed investigations and apparent coverups surrounding many other instances of torture in the UK, both in recent years and historically, this is part of a truly shocking pattern, and by no means an exception.

youtube.com/watch?v=DyX5QAi3wwE&t=1799s justice.org.uk/torture-uk-law journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1354066116653455 independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/cruel-britannia-secret-history-torture-ian-cobain-8343851.html eachother.org.uk/stories/the-five-techniques dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2223831/How-Britain-tortured-Nazi-PoWs-The-horrifying-interrogation-methods-belie-proud-boast-fought-clean-war.html

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D H
Oct 23
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DH edited this paragraph
From Arab Investigation Centres of the 1930s in Mandate Palestine, to Viper Island of the Andaman Islands during British colonialism, the UK authorities have always reserved space for torture during any "exception circumstances" that arise. Torture continued throughout the 20th century, with Camp 020 at Latchmere House and The London Cage at Kensington Palace Gardens being used to torture German POWs during the Second World War. But it was during Operation Demetrius in Northern Ireland in the 1970s that the Five Techniques of deprivation of sleep, food and drink, stress positions, hooding and subjection to ‘white noise’ (loud static) were developed, techniques taught internationally by British forces. This is in addition to a litany of failed investigations and apparent coverups surrounding many other instances of torture in the UK, both in recent years and historically, this is part of a truly shocking pattern, and by no means an exception.

Government is trying to protect itself

Along with the outward justification of protecting veteran British troops from vexatious legal cases the Overseas Operations Bill will, by an extension of this, be protecting the UK government from accountability for maintaining human rights laws internationally protected under the Geneva conventions. The bill's "triple lock" structure essentially establishes a statute of limitations for the offence of torture, undermining international law and shielding the government against what could be legitimate charges, such as the death of hotel receptionist Baha Mousa in 2003. It is widely know that the British army used illegal "advanced interrogation" techniques in Iraq and Afghanistan, which breached the UN convention on torture, this is more likely a way to resolve any future prosecutions for both British service people and politicians.

The UK government have already admitted to being prepared to violate international law over an Internal Market Bill during recent Brexit negotiations, being openly willing to push through Brexit regardless of legal boundaries. This was followed by the Overseas Operations Bill, and in the weeks following a bill was proposed by the government of Boris Johnson that would have made it legal for undercover police or intelligence officers to commit any crime with impunity while undercover. A pattern is quickly emerging under this government, as it has openly and brazenly admitted to be willing to violate international law, undermining the normal checks and balances on policing, intelligence, the military, trade, and indeed governance, that are the norm internationally.

theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/sep/20/overseas-operations-bill-uk-government-bend-rules-torture-soldiers trtworld.com/magazine/uk-government-pushes-bill-to-decriminalise-torture-by-troops-overseas-40032

heraldscotland.com/news/18720565.brexit-internal-market-bill-controversial independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/chis-bill-mp-vote-undercover-agent-ban-murder-torture-rape-spy-cops-b1050124.html

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D H
Oct 21
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DH edited this paragraph
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/sep/20/overseas-operations-bill-uk-government-bend-rules-torture-soldiers https://www.trtworld.com/magazine/uk-government-pushes-bill-to-decriminalise-torture-by-troops-overseas-40032
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