Rules that let you kill and get away with it

Today’s Daily Telegraph
Front-line fighting is alien to UK law givers

Last Updated: 6:44am BST 14/06/2007
This article has been writtten by a serving Royal Military Police officer, who has been in operational combat theatre in Iraq, but who cannot be publicly identified.The news from the House of Lords gives us a fascinating insight into the total lack of understanding that politicians have of the military and an operational environment that exists in the world today.In bygone years, both Houses were filled with men and women who had served their country in a military capacity and therefore had a first-hand understanding of what life was like on the ground for the average soldier.There was an understanding of the pressures and the danger. That understanding, knowledge and indeed respect has now gone and the evidence can be found in the ignorance and stupidity behind supporting the application of the Human Rights Act in a military environment.[/quote]Well, I’m sorry Military Police Officer. You fight the war you have and not the war you would choose. The men who filled the House in bygone years did not do so in the manner that wars are fought today. There are Rules, Agreements and Conventions that are designed to keep soldiers from straying over the edge into being senseless beasts. When we read the Abu Musa transcripts, we see how easy that is if the ‘new’ laws etc. are ignored.
The Human Rights Act represents legislation that functions in a society which is settled and fundamentally secure. When the police detain someone in the UK, they do so knowing that the environment is not filled with insurgents and that a major ambush is not being planned whilst they make the arrest.In Iraq or Afghanistan, once troops are out of the vehicles and on the ground insurgents will be reporting their movements and assessing the pros and cons of an assault or potential for roadside bomb or mortar strike.British forces do not have the luxury of time in apprehending terrorists. The detention has to be lightning quick and made in a fashion that would be considered excessive in a calmer civilian environment.
The differences between armed conflict should have been taken on board when the legislation was drafted. In addition, we have been in Iraq long enough to have started the political process of how to deal with the points you make. Have you contributed your thoughts as expressed here up the Chain of Command? The soldiers fighting under the conditions you detail have very little voice. They expect their officers to deal with such matters. Reinforce the message as the time of the query and ensure that the headshed know the problem and do something. It may well be that the extension of courts martial into the ranks of commissioned officers will add some urgency to these revisions.
Civilian police in the UK may take as long as they like to effect an arrest so that the operation complies with the Human Rights Act. If British forces were to replicate that time on the ground in an operational environment such as Iraq there would almost certainly be a contact (firefight), risking both the soldiers' and detainees' lives. I doubt that many of those who support the use of the Act have any idea what it is like to be on the ground under fire in a war zone. It would be naïve to think that (with rounds smacking off the side of one's vehicle) the Act could or should be at the forefront of any soldier's mind.
I have. I just query how often it is that that the investigator is right there with the fighting troops. I understand we do not have enough trained investigators to achieve this depth og penetration into units.
Adequate detention facilities in a war zone? Again those that support the use of the Act in an operational theatre clearly have no idea of the ground and how our forces operate.In theory, British forces may detain a suspected terrorist and be required to return the suspect to a secure location for questioning. It is very rarely that simple when the very act of transit itself is fraught with danger.Here is a typical scenario. In the process of transit three AK47's open up on a convoy from the direction of a large residential area. Rounds are snapping over and around the vehicles. Already, top cover are returning fire.The young officer commanding the group has his PRR (internal communications) jammed with reports from top cover and drivers giving the immediate picture on the ground. Something whacks the side of his vehicle; it is loud and shakes the armour, leaving a weird bell-like humming in his ears.Just then the net informs him that the route he has reselected is now subject to a roadside bomb threat. That officer has decisions to make, things are hotting up and a new location has to be selected.
Very graphic description. I will leave it to others to confirm just how often this scenario develops, how we train and lead our officers to make hard decisions and think on their feet. I especially take the point re communications. I have heard Brigadiers fighting battles on exercise and they are really overloaded with comms.The current hoo ha was led by a situation where detainees were in very secure, safe area well within our control. The fact that a man was able to sustain over 90 bodily injuries prior to his death would suggest that it is treatment and not the physical location that matters.
The clear choice is the nearest British forces base. That location may not have adequate detention facilities by the letter of the Human Rights Act but it is relatively safe and will mean that the soldiers can remove themselves and the prisoner from immediate danger. The Act was not, I believe, conceived with the sort of arrest environment I have described in mind.
See my previous comment about what war is available and the comment that even in an ideal confinement space, dissidents are in danger from the men who guard them.
The war fighting environment is alien to those that make the law. Soldiers do not dictate how the nation's courts are to be run because most have no legal experience. Similarly, those who have no war fighting experience cannot fully understand or legislate for the war zone.
We have the legislators. They are assisted by the various Committees. How many of our senior commanders (Prince of Darkness status) have asked to give evidence to these. You, sir, and doubtless many who feel the same way as yourself will have representatives in Parliament. How many unsatisfied soldiers have approached their MP on these matters
We have our rules of engagement and stick to those in unbelievably difficult circumstances. The Human Rights Act is simply not workable in a war environment.
Yes we have. The mess the Army is now in is what results when the Rules are not followed in full compliance. We – Tommy Atkins – do not make the rules that we have to follow. But, this is the only game in town. I know because I have done it that a soldier fully instructed in the Rules – Yellow card and all the attachments – who is fully and properly debriefed by a competent investigator who takes a very detailed statement – will be able to show that at the time he was doing his very best to abide by his training and is not some delinquent with a weapon. Another nicety would be to remove the Army edict re minimum force and use the term the lawyers use – reasonable force. The minimum is measurable – generally contra-indicative to the soldier. Reasonable is something that is considered in the light of events.
OldRedCap said:
I have. I just query how often it is that that the investigator is right there with the fighting troops. I understand we do not have enough trained investigators to achieve this depth og penetration into units.
The problem ORC is that we are not just talking about "trained investigators". We are talking about soldiers who - in the simplest terms - are told to go out, lift T1 and get him to this location.

A Soldier - whatever his cap badge - simply does not have the time to consider the niceties of the HRA when in an operational environment.

Oh - and RMP are providing CS as embeds in Afghanistan, not too sure about Iraq. So they are going to turn round to a Commander during a contact and insist on the HRA being observed? I would hope not!
When you are dealing with people that do not comply with any type of Human Rights, I find it extremely hard that soldiers are able to do so.

And as you stated in your first paragraph, the people making the rules/acts and laws just dont have a clue. The fact the country has gone OTT PC, I think it is going to get really difficult for soldiers. If you have to make life or death decision for instance worrying about whether it conforms with an act is the last thing to be thinking about.
I'd rather be tried by twelve than carried by six as the saying goes. I feel for these poor lads and lasses out on the ground in iraq etc. i could go on (and usually do) but won't.
Headthe ball
OldRedCap wrote:
I have. I just query how often it is that that the investigator is right there with the fighting troops. I understand we do not have enough trained investigators to achieve this depth og penetration into units.

The problem ORC is that we are not just talking about "trained investigators". We are talking about soldiers who - in the simplest terms - are told to go out, lift T1 and get him to this location.
My comment was re the authors contention that holding the ground for SOCO was impractical. Sybill in front line (still) does not happen I think. Actually, the rules of evidence will admit secondary evidence if the best evidence was not able to be produced. (FTP whitewashed on a long brick wall - photographic ebidence would be secondary and accepted so long as the photographer was alloed to show it) In the context, I just wonder if we are using video to best advantage. The sort of footage re Afghanistan on U Tube would explain why no detailed forensics were developed and let the reviewing authority to experience 2nd hand the Fog of War
Point taken. Do we get to the point where soldiers strap on a mini Video camera to the helmet then? Michael Yon talks about a Soldier doing precisely this in one of his dispatches (IIRC a QRL Soldier).
I had read somewhere here that vid on helmet was quite common. The 'ghan TV on YouTube from the time PARA were deployed shows mostly stuff that came from such sources. I cannot imagine that in some of the engagements shown they had a spare p(r)ick running around hand-holding a camera and doing nothing else
Interesting given my current location.

Actions and decisions taken in the heat of the moment are always judged afterwards in the cold light of day, with retrospective hindsight. However, as long as those actions are reasonable (and proportionate?) in the circumstances, the rules (of engagement and legislation) will protect those actions.
Remember - if you feel that your life or that of your colleagues was in danger, you can use force, as long as it's not disproportionate. That was the advice from legal when we were getting briefed up.
When the classroom turns into court room
If you feel that your life becomes Do we come to same conclusion here, now, rested and safe as you did after 10 hours on stag in that back alley in Ardoyne that dark wet night
In danger becomes tell us what was happening and we will decide if there was any danger at all
You can use force becomes do we agree, after the foregoing two questions, that you needed to anything. Think Radio, withdraw and get better orders, go firm all wet and cold in that alley
If we agree that you did indeed need to use force, was it proportionate. Was it the mimimum force that could be used. What other bright ideas may they have in the courtroom,
In other words - what you decided in awful mental and physical conditions in the dark in a very very short space of time is now gone over at great length in afety, peace and quiet conditions by a group of officers, some of whom never got outside the wire on stag and who are very conscious that the Army look it's best in the media.
That is the difference.
Happy now about how fireproof you are?
I actually appreciate the fact that we must operate within the rule of law and have always supported the Feds when they appear to - very properly - investigate any...errr...incidents. If we try and hide these things, or seek to cover them up at unit level, we're no better than the animals we send to their respective makers.

I would be interested to see how seriously our US chums take these sorts of issues, given that a few weeks ago, I got brassed up by a US Apache - god knows what they do to 'Grey Forces'...
ORC raises some interesting points, however should the concern be about those who will have to make a judgement call on the situation when sat in the comfortable confines of the court room, or should we all be worried about the whims of the government of the day who pander to any cause in order to make themselves look better - any ultimately pull the chains of our military masters?

Good to see that Proximo finally appreciates the Feds!
How would I deal with it?
Get those likely to be sitting behind the big table in court to see what battle really is. The early stuff on UTube that Para in 'gan sent will do. Questions will be asked of the audience.
Get those involved in advising/originating/in any way within the legal system of the Army and higher echelon to understand what battle really is. UTube again. Stand over them in a complete new review of how we deal with things when rounds are going both ways. The laws we have do not really work in UK cities etc. and there must be appreciation that Saturday night handbags down the club in no way reflects what goes on in 'gan and Iraq.
Then make a presentation to Defence Ctte. Old way & problems, New way and benefits. Ctte to be responsible for getting MPs up to speed. Legal bods rewrite instructions to troops in a fire fight.
If it is not too late and all the sensible sybills have left/had the zip inserted as LE, get them forward so they can get it to the lads. The ultimate victim of ignorance and Colonel Blimp. Keep this indoctrination away from SIB officers who otherwise will just amend it to make things easy for themselves.
I would do it all for food and a bedroll.
A pint of whatever ORC was drinking when he posted above, please!
This is the whole reason for having International Humanitarian Law that applies in a time of conflict and allows for the different circumstances in conflict that Human Right Law doesn't address.
One of the problems is that people try to oversimplify situations. I have been asked "You see a man with a gun. Do you shoot him?" No other information. No comments about the current J2 picture, no information about recent activity in the area, in other areas that might have an impact on it etc. This was in a coroner's inquiry, and goes to show the extent of ignorance that exists from civilians. I commented that even if we sat down and discussed the situation all day long, examined all the scenarios, it still wouldn't be the same as being in the situation, having developed over your time in the theatre almost a "Sixth-sense" of what you need to do to get out of the poop-e-doop with all your boys, cause minimum civilian casualties, and acting within your one-up and two-up's intent.

It's like asking what the answer is to "2+x", but not knowing what "x" is.

I remember an OPTAG instructor briefing his lot that the difference between Card A and 429 A(or whatever it was then) was that on the latter you could shoot dickers. No mate, nowhere near. Fortunately I believe that they are now sending top guys to OPTAG and boards are being told to look at it on the same level as Brecon postings. About time, as it is the main effort.

Same tour the LegAd comes out to visit one of the Coys in some pretty hairy rucks virtually every day. They take him up to the FSG location. A couple of hours of violence and some brown trousers later he informs the boss that when he goes back he is going to ensure that our robust interpretation of Card A is interpreted at home as fully legal.

Bit of an off-topic rant but NY hangover is preventing any real clear thinking.

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