The Liberal Democrats have spoken out against the Overseas Operations Bill in its current form and warned of an “erosion of human rights”. The Government are reportedly preparing to table an amendment to the bill following pressure from the House of Lords.
Lib Dem Spokesperson for Defence Jamie Stone MP said: “Liberal Democrats have had serious concerns about the Overseas Operations Bill and its implications for human rights, the rule of law and our service personnel. The Government’s concession to ensure torture, genocide and crimes against humanity remain open to prosecution is long-overdue. It shouldn’t have taken them this long to recognise the Bill’s stark moral failure. This is a major win for Liberal Democrats and others who have engaged in cross-party efforts to press the Government to remove these problematic provisions.
“Barriers to prosecution of these crimes would be totally unworkable. The Government said such measures would protect our armed forces but that logic has been exposed as inconsistent with reality. As the ICC’s Chief Prosecutor warned, these barriers would have likely seen UK troops brought before the ICC for actions overseas.
“This concession comes hot on the heels of another to remove deeply problematic provisions on derogation from the European Convention on Human Rights. Liberal Democrats led the charge on this, tabling an amendment to that effect when the Bill was first in the Commons.
“While these concessions are welcome, the attempted erosion of human rights and the rule of law set out in this Bill’s original form is part of a wider disturbing trend with this Conservative Government.
“Liberal Democrats are standing up for our armed forces and veterans. The Government has argued the Bill stops repeated investigations of service personnel, but the legislation doesn’t put these words into action.
“In contrast, Liberal Democrat peer Lord Thomas of Gresford’s amendment ensures such investigation processes are timely and effective. Furthermore, it is right that a proper duty of care be established for those service personnel subject to investigation and prosecution, and that it remains possible for them to bring complaints forward against the powers that be at the Ministry of Defence.
“Our service personnel have sacrificed so much to keep us all safe and we should ensure that their rights are protected and enhanced.”