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McGuinness slams British government plans for immunity for armed forces

4 October, 2016 - by Martin McGuinness

Sinn Féin MLA Martin McGuinness has slammed British government plans to exempt its armed forces from prosecution under the European Convention of Human Rights. 

He was speaking after British Defence Minister Michael Fallon unveiled plans at the Conservative party conference which would mean that soldiers in conflict situations would no longer be bound by two key articles of the charter - the right to life and the right to liberty.

"This move signals yet another attempt by the British government to effectively make its military immune from prosecution," the deputy First Minister said.

"Michael Fallon talks about the derogation applying to future conflicts but the question has to be asked whether he actually means future investigations? It's a question I will be putting directly to Theresa May because, if that is the case, it will have profound implications for the prospects of a legacy agreement in the north as it would completely undermine the proposed bodies to deal with our past such as the Historical Investigations Unit."

Mr. McGuinness also criticised the British government's justification of the move as an attempt to protect their forces from 'vexatious' claims.

He commented: "The European Convention on Human Rights is a fundamental protection for citizens in conflict situations and when you look at the situation that the British government helped create in places like Iraq, Syria and Lybia, it is needed now as much as ever.

"And for British Ministers to argue they are protecting their soldiers from so called 'vexatious' claims is a complete distraction. In reality, this is about protecting them from prosecution and protecting their government from embarassing and costly cases which expose the illegal actions being carried out in the name of the British people. 

"The British government has already been forced to pay out £20 million in 326 cases to date. There's nothing vexatious about such cases. They are obviously cases with substance or compensation wouldn't have been paid." 

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