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Move to exempt soldiers from prosecution under ECHR passes first Commons hurdle

The backbench bill from Tory Leo Docherty said adopting the convention in UK law has led to a ‘catalogue of injustice involving hundreds of soldiers’.

A move to exempt members of the Armed Forces from prosecution under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) passed the first Parliamentary hurdle to becoming law today.

The motion, presented by backbench Tory MP Leo Docherty, said that the “unintended consequences” of the UK’s Human Rights Act 1998 – which incorporated much of the convention into our law – has led to a “catalogue of injustice involving hundreds of soldiers”.

He said: “No other country has such a perverse situation in which soldiers who have done their duty and done no wrong face this kind of sustained legal pursuit.”

Pointing out that 10 countries including France and Spain “have in effect opted out of certain aspects” of the ECHR, the MP called on the UK to do the same to protect UK soldiers.

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Leo Docherty MP : Said the European Convention on Human Rights meant UK troops faced ‘spurious’ legal action and injustice.

Mr Docherty told Conservative colleagues they should back the Armed Forces (Derogation from European Convention on Human Rights) Bill as “it is the right thing to do”, and also “because we have promised to do it, it is on page 41 of our manifesto”.

He continued: “We should do it because we need to be honest with our constituents and our society about the role of our Armed Forces and the fact they need to fight on our behalf.

“Our Armed Forces need to know they can deploy and fight on our behalf, while adhering to the Geneva Conventions and the laws of armed conflict.”

The member for Aldershot finished by saying: “They need to know they can deploy and fight on our behalf and will not then not face spurious legal accusations years and decades after the event.”

The Bill was unopposed, and moves on to its Second Reading in the Commons, but it is unlikely to become law in its current form due to a lack of Parliamentary time available, and would need Government support to make it onto the statute book.

Mr Docherty requested that the Bill returns to the House for the next reading on March 8.

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