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LABOUR MP Nadia Whittome defended her decision to vote against a new law that critics claim will decriminalise torture, after she was sacked from her junior opposition role for defying the whip.
Ms Whittome confirmed today that she had been stood down as a parliamentary private secretary, along with Labour MPs Beth Winter and Olivia Blake.
All three voted against the Overseas Operations Bill, which Tory ministers insist is aimed at protecting armed forces and veterans from “vexatious prosecutions,” but human-rights groups argue would violate international law.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer had ordered MPs to abstain, sparking anger from anti-war campaigners who accused him of “prioritising the appeasement of the militarist lobby over basic human rights.”
Defending her decision Ms Whittome said that she believed MPs should be able to vote “in line with their conscience.”
In a statement she said: “I opposed the Bill because it effectively decriminalises torture and makes it harder for veterans to take legal action against the government or for war crimes to be investigated.”
The MP said that while she understood her colleagues’ decision to abstain to try to change the legislation at a later stage, she held out “no such hope given how flawed and damaging this Bill is.”
Responding to the sackings, Labour MP Diane Abbott said Ms Whittome had “voted absolutely in line with Labour values.”
Ms Abbott was one of 18 Labour MPs who voted against the Bill, including former party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Stop the War Coalition convenor Lindsey German said Labour’s position to abstain “represents a further retreat from the policies which marked Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.”
“It is hard to imagine why a human-rights lawyer should abstain on such a scurrilous Bill,” she said, referring to Sir Keir’s former career, adding that the abstention has “done a great disservice to those in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan who seek justice, having been victims of torture and abuse.”
Pacifist organisation the Peace Pledge Union said the vote served as “another reminder of just how much some politicians are willing to be subservient to the militarist lobby.”
PPU campaign manager Symon Hill told the Morning Star: “If Sir Keir Starmer is going to prioritise the appeasement of militarists over the basic human rights that he made his reputation as a lawyer defending that doesn’t bode well for the future.”
The Bill passed its second reading on Wednesday night by 331 votes to 77.
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