A 10-year “qualified statute of limitations” should be introduced to protect veterans and serving armed forces personnel from reinvestigation for alleged crimes, MPs have said.
The House of Commons defence select committee also called on the government to consider amending the Human Rights Act to provide a presumption against prosecution for historical offences.
The 47-page report, Drawing a Line: Protecting Veterans By a Statute of Limitations, criticises the government for breaking a promise to safeguard veterans of Northern Ireland’s Troubles from the “spectre” of repeated investigations of events that occurred decades ago.
The report welcomes previous Ministry of Defence (MoD) proposals to opt out from the European convention on human rightsduring future conflicts. However, it points out that under MoD plans those who served in Northern Ireland and those who served abroad would be subject to different legislative regimes. The MoD and Northern Ireland Office have been in dispute over such reforms.
“We have been determined to ensure that justice prevails for veterans and for current service personnel,” the MPs said, “whilst ensuring that wrongdoing and criminality are appropriately investigated and punished.”
Neither amnesties nor blanket immunity from prosecution are being sought, the reports says. “Those who serve in our armed forces are not above the law, but we believe that there is something fundamentally wrong when veterans and [serving] personnel can be investigated and exonerated, only then to become trapped in a cycle of endless reinvestigation.
“We warn that this state of affairs risks undermining not only morale within the armed forces, and the potential for future recruitment, but also trust in the rule of law.” Read more