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‘War is not a legal black hole,’ Liberty warns rookie defence secretary

DEFENCE Secretary Penny Mordaunt must not scrap human rights law if Britain goes to war in the future, a leading campaign group warned today.

Civil rights group Liberty warned the Tory MP: “War is not a legal black hole.”

The stern rebuke came as Ms Mordaunt declared to reporters that she wanted to “close down litigation” against British troops.

In a speech at the Royal United Services Institute today she promised to “stop this chilling effect that is plaguing veterans who really deserve our care and respect.”

She specifically threatened to opt out of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in future armed conflicts.

The protocol has been used in relation to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to sue the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for the unlawful detention of local people and to ensure independent investigations of killings by British troops.

It has also been used by soldiers and their families to bring claims against the MoD for providing faulty kit such as the cheap thin-skinned Snatch Land Rovers. At least 37 British troops died while travelling inside these “mobile coffins” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ms Mordaunt dismissed such claims as “lawfare” and an “industry.” She said such litigation was “having a direct impact on the decisions that our personnel take in the field.

“And that is quite wrong and it has to stop and I will take whatever action at the speed I can to resolve this issue — it is a priority for me,” she said.

Liberty’s policy and campaigns manager Sam Grant slammed the speech. He said: “Nothing in the ECHR prevents soldiers from being soldiers — but it is important to have accountability for gross abuses of human rights, on the battlefield or off.

“Derogation will not prevent the proper investigation of credible allegations of abuse during wartime: it is simply not possible to derogate from the right to life or the prohibition on torture.

“It will only serve to undermine the fundamental rights and hinder accountability upon which both soldiers and civilians rely.”

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