30/06/2010

No Human Rights' Protection For Troops

Human rights protection does not apply to British troops involved in conflict - that's according to the Supreme Court that has ruled that UK soldiers are not protected by human rights laws on the battlefield.

The family of Private Jason Smith, who died of heatstroke in Iraq in June 2003, had argued that troops should receive such protection in conflict overseas.

But, service commanders said it was impractical to allow troops in combat zones to be protected by human rights law and the court has now quashed the legal bid in its landmark decision over rights of UK soldiers deployed abroad covering the conditions under which they are expected to serve.

The majority ruling, by six of the nine justices who heard the case, overturned previous high court and court of appeal judgments over the death of a soldier, Private Jason Smith, who died of heatstroke while on a UK base in Iraq.

In March, the Ministry of Defence appealed against a court of appeal ruling that sending military personnel into battle or patrol with defective equipment could breach their human rights.
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The court was asked to rule on whether a British soldier on military service in Iraq is subject to UK jurisdiction and covered by human rights laws wherever they were serving, not only when on a British military base or hospital.

The deceased soldier, Jason Smith, 32, from Roxburghshire, was a reservist deployed in Iraq in June 2003.

He repeatedly told medical staff he was feeling unwell due to high temperatures - sometimes over 50C (122F) - before reporting sick in August the same year.

Then, he was found lying face down and taken to hospital, but had already suffered a cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead.

The Government conceded at a high court hearing that soldiers on UK military bases or hospitals do come within the Human Rights Act but Mr Justice Collins ruled that a state might be in breach of its human rights obligations if it could have taken steps to avoid or minimise a known risk to life but did not do so.

The action was initially undertaken by Mr Smith's mother, Catherine, after she was initially denied access to crucial documents at an inquest into her son's death.

(BMcC/GK)

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