Torture and genocide to be excluded from new legal safeguards for troops

The Ministry of Defence said the Government will table its own amendment to the Overseas Operations Bill.

Troops in Afghanistan
Troops in Afghanistan

The Government is to exempt genocide and torture from controversial new legal safeguards for British troops serving overseas.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said that ministers will table their own amendment to the Overseas Operations Bill when it returns to the Commons on Wednesday.

It comes after the House of Lords last week voted by 333 to 228 to support a change to the Bill to ensure the most serious offences were not covered by the legislation aimed at protecting service personnel from vexatious battlefield claims.

Lord Robertson of Port Ellen
Peers backed an amendment by ex-Nato chief Lord Robertson (David Jones/PA)

The amendment was tabled by former Nato general secretary Lord Robertson of Port Ellen and was backed by a number of ex-military chiefs including the former head of the armed forces, Lord Stirrup.

It followed warnings that the legislation as originally put forward risked damaging the UK’s international reputation and could lead to service personnel ending up before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

In a statement, an MoD spokesman said: “Whilst we maintain nothing in this Bill prevents those accused of breaking the law from being prosecuted, we have listened to concerns, and in order to send a powerful message to the international community amendments will be made to the Overseas Operations Bill.

“Excluded offences in part one of the Bill will be expanded to include torture, genocide and crimes against humanity.”

The legislation is designed to limit false and historical allegations arising from overseas operations by introducing a statutory presumption against prosecution five years or more after an incident.

Rape and other crimes of sexual violence were already excluded from the provisions of the Bill.

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