UK Armed Forces personnel and legal framework for future operations

03 July 2013

The Defence Committee today announces a new inquiry into the protections and obligations—ensuring legality and legitimacy—for operational and deployed UK Armed Forces personnel.

This inquiry is the first of a series of inquiries which have evolved from our inquiry Towards the next Defence and Security Review. These inquiries will cover a number of significant strands which have emerged from our inquiry which the Committee believe would benefit from further Defence Committee consideration.

Recent judgments by the Supreme Court, Coroners and others have raised a variety of legal, ethical, risk and human rights issues. In speaking about future contingency operations, General Sir Peter Wall said:
There will be an expectation in some circles in society that the sort of zero risk culture that is understandably sought in many other walks of life ought to be achievable on the battlefield, and whilst we have certainly understood and bounded the threats and risks in the Afghan theatre—which is as you know extremely demanding in just about every facet—it will be interesting to see how this plays out in a fast moving crisis where we are required to deploy at short notice with a fraction of the understanding that we have developed about the situation, the ground and the people in the Helmand valley.
The Committee wishes to examine:

  • The legal protections and obligations applying to UK Armed Forces personnel (regular and reservist) when deployed in the UK or abroad in UK-only or coalition operations;
  • The effects of the developing concepts and doctrines of ‘lawfare’ and ‘universal jurisdiction’;
  • the judicial development of Duty of Care concepts and of domestic UK law and claims of negligence, on UK operational decision making processes and arrangements for recording decisions and events by operational commanders.

In this context, the Committee wishes to consider what changes may be necessary to the current MoD legal framework and processes to accommodate the particular position of UK Armed Forces at war and when deployed in conflict situations or in peacekeeping and the changing tactical forms of future conflicts. The Committee will make recommendations to inform the continued operation of the UK Armed Forces Covenant and the development of the next Strategic Defence and Security Review.
The Committee would welcome written evidence to this inquiry. This should be sent to the Clerk of the Defence Committee by Friday 18 October 2013.

Image: Ministry of Defence

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