Labour’s justice spokesman has insisted that human rights law should apply to British troops in all foreign jurisdictions.
Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon told a meeting at the Labour party conference that laws should apply ‘to all countries and actors in the theatre of war’.
His comments come as the debate continues about whether British soldiers should be subject to claims relating to alleged breaches of human rights law while involved in conflicts abroad.
Several media outlets have called for claims against soldiers to be dropped, with a Times columnist today saying Britain has paid its troops the ‘ultimate ingratitude’. Prime minister Theresa May has pledged to close down the ‘industry of vexatious allegations’ against British troops over claims of abuse.
Burgon, speaking at an event organised by campaign group Liberty, was asked by a delegate whether Labour would be prepared to challenge efforts to exempt British troops from human rights law.
The Leeds East MP insisted that armed forces should themselves be protected by human rights law, but they should also be bound by the rules.
‘People produce examples of cases which it turned out didn’t succeed, but they are used to [remove] the ability to bring any case,’ he said.
‘People shouldn’t forget the case of [torture victim] Baha Mousa the firm which brought that case [Public Interest Lawyers]. If we believe in the rule of law people need to be protected by the rule of law and accountable to it.’
Burgon reiterated Labour’s commitment to fight plans to replace the Human Rights Act with a British bill of rights, warning that the government's proposal would harm Britain’s reputation internationally.
‘We should all make sure, whether we are in opposition or government, that we defend the act and Britain needs to be a beacon of human rights and lead by example,' he said.
'If we abolish the Human Rights Act that is a green light for countries around the world to do exactly as they want on human rights.’