Army chiefs warn on prosecutions

''Former leaders of the armed forces have raised fears that the morale of troops in Iraq is being damaged by the number of criminal investigations they face.
Six ex-chiefs of the defence staff criticised ministers in the House of Lords on Thursday''

Is this not a bit late? maybe they should have said something when they were still serving.
The story heats up some more:

From The Grauniad:

Military chiefs attack Iraq lawsuits

Richard Norton-Taylor
Friday July 15, 2005
The Guardian

The country's most senior military figures yesterday mounted an unprecedented assault on the Ministry of Defence, accusing it of imposing unacceptable legal constraints on British commanders and their soldiers.

A string of former chiefs of staff attacked the ministry for subjecting British soldiers to litigation - including the prospect of being charged with war crimes under the jurisdiction of the international criminal court (ICC) - which, they said, undermined morale and the crucial relationship between commanding officers and their troops in the field.

They sharply criticised the government in a Lords debate prompted by lawsuits relating to incidents involving British soldiers in southern Iraq. They include the murder of Baha Mousa and other Iraqis allegedly maltreated by soldiers of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment in September 2003.

The attorney general is expected to announce charges shortly against some of the troops allegedly involved. The attorney has authority over the military's prosecuting authorities, in particular when a commanding officer refuses to agree to a court martial.

In the Lords yesterday Lord Boyce, the chief of defence staff at the time of the war on Iraq, told peers: "Our armed forces are under legal siege and are being pushed in the direction in which an order could be seen as improper or legally unsound. They are being pushed by people not schooled in operations but only in political correctness."

He added: "If we continue to travel down this road, there will come a point when the close relationship between the commanding officer and his or her people will be lost. If that is destroyed the consequences could be serious."

Lord Guthrie, Lord Boyce's predecessor, said: "We are asking a very great deal of young soldiers who are put under huge pressure of a kind which very few people outside the services have experienced, and which has been rarely experienced by those who craft our laws and are responsible for our legal system.

"Undeniable damage to the army's trust in the chain of command has occurred, and it could have been minimised. The risk of morale suffering further is real. Many people, rightly or wrongly, think the system is unjust."

Lord Bramall, another former defence chief, joined protests at the handling of the case of Trooper Kevin Williams of the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment who had faced trial at the Old Bailey. He was formally cleared after the Crown Prosecution Service last week accepted there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction. The judge suggested the decision to prosecute him had been a "betrayal" of British troops.

Trooper Williams, 22, from Burnley, was part of a patrol near Basra in August 2003 which saw six Iraqis moving a cart carrying heavy ammunition. Three were detained but the others ran off, including Hassan Abbad Said, a lawyer who had nine children. Trooper Williams and a military police officer, Colonel Jeffrey Blair, chased Mr Said into a building but he refused to surrender. After a struggle, Trooper Williams shot him in the back and he died the next day.

"In ongoing operations in Iraq there is no distinction between war zones and civilian areas; little distinction between terrorists and law-abiding civilians," Lord Bramall said, adding: "The new international legal code was always likely to impinge on military duty."

He said the armed forces were suffering the consequences of the government's refusal to get an ICC opt-out for the military as France had done.

Lord Inge, another former chief of defence staff, said: "It would be disastrous if our soldiers lose faith in the chain of command. There is a danger that they may hesitate to use lethal force for fear of prosecution, and their lives may be needlessly lost."

The junior defence minister Lord Drayson said it would be "unthinkable" for British forces personnel to be actually sent to the ICC at The Hague.
My unalloyed delight at those wretched arrses in MoD getting a drubbing (again) aside, isn't it a bit late for all these terribly important people to be rustling their newspapers about this? The gradual erosion of CO's rights (and the wider legal piece) has been underway for years - tacitly aided and abetted by a succession of 4 stars - as it is right now.

A junior minister being wheeled out to assure us that one of our chaps will never go to the ICC gives no cause for relief at all - when the Government decide to push the knife in, who will remember the junior minister then?

I'm going to declare an interest straight out of the box - I have been investigated for certain alleged offences, and found the whole experience extremely unpleasant - in fact, the SIB chaps actually stated they didn't believe it was the right thing to be doing. I was also present at another incident which made very big headlines and is alluded to above. We have got this all wrong - how are we supposed to have faith in a system which applies Whitehall logic and process to a split-second decision taken by (possibly) a very young man fighting for his life in pursuit of a political goal he may not even believe in?

Anyway, I'll just get my coat. The story is here.

**Rustles newspaper**
Interesting that Inge also said that he felt SIS were too aggressively looking for cases.

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