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Stopping military abuse probes ‘puts troops above law,’ peace activists warn

LEGISLATION preventing repeated investigations into British troops  over alleged offences would “place armed forces personnel above the law,” the Peace Pledge Union told the Morning Star yesterday.

The Commons defence select committee will today call on the next prime minister to bring legislative changes against the “ridiculous charade” of “vexatious” and repeated investigations into alleged historical offences.

MPs say the proposed legislation, which is subject to public consultation, will stipulate that prosecutions are not in the public interest unless there are “exceptional circumstances” such as if compelling new evidence emerges.

The Ministry of Defence is launching a consultation today on proposals to provide legal protections for serving and former armed forces personnel.

Peace Pledge Union campaigns manager Symon Hill warned that everyone should be subject to the same law as a fundamental principle of justice.

He said: “By calling for a ‘presumption against prosecution’ the committee is effectively trying to place armed forces personnel above the law. 

“The militarist lobby has whipped up fears of a ‘witch-hunt’ of British veterans. Meanwhile, in the real world, British veterans are rarely prosecuted and almost never convicted of war-related crimes.

“When this does happen it is invariably low-ranking troops who are in the dock, not the senior officers who commanded them.” 

Mr Hill pointed out that cases are more likely to be reinvestigated where internal military investigations have not been trusted.

He said: “If militarists are as concerned about veterans as they claim, they should be campaigning for decent housing to address the needs of Britain’s 13,000 homeless veterans and calling for improved mental health services to assist the disproportionate number of veterans with mental health problems.”

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