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General Sir Mike Jackson calls for battlefield human rights ruling appeal
05-19-2009, 12:56 PM,
General Sir Mike Jackson calls for battlefield human rights ruling appeal
Quote:General Sir Mike, the chief of the general staff during the Iraq war, said he feared the potential threat of legal action over battlefield decisions could prevent commanders from taking the initiative.

Speaking on the Today programme, he said it would enter the "realms of the absurd" if there developed a need to seek legal advice before taking such action when under fire and called for "sensible limits" to be established.

He urged MoD lawyers to determine the potential implications of the ruling as soon as possible with an appeal to the House of Lords.

Sir Mike is the most senior critic so far of the decision by the Court of Appeal on Monday to uphold a High Court ruling that troops serving abroad are protected by the Human Rights Act, despite a challenge by the Ministry of Defence.

The case was brought to court by the mother of Private Jason Smith who died from heatstroke in 2003 while working in temperatures of 50C (122F) in Iraq without air conditioning. She won a decision in April last year that sending soldiers out on patrol or into battle with defective equipment could amount to a breach of their human rights.

Lawyers now believe the MoD could be facing a flood of compensation claims from the families of service personnel killed as a result of poor or outdated equipment.

Sir Mike said a key passage of the judgement that needed to be explored was the difference between a soldier in theatre and a soldier involved in active fighting.

"I think it is a very important qualification in their judgement that the right to life of a soldier in combat is different to that of a soldier not in combat," he said.

"That is a very important statement because there is an inference from the ruling which I think concerns everybody that commanders' decisions (on the battlefield) could be subject to legal analysis years down range and that is a concern.

"The ruling needs a lot of analysis as to its applicability to soldiers in close quarters combat. What I am concerned about is that it could have an inhibiting effect on operational effectiveness for that reason," he said.

Asked whether he meant that commanders could think twice before making decisions and lose the initiative in battle, he answered: "That's is one set of circumstances which might – and I stress might because I'm not a lawyer – arise and if that were to be the case then commanders may feel inhibited from doing what they must do which is to take decisions of grave importance regarding soldiers' lives to achieve the mission they have set out to, all of this is dangerous circumstances and sometimes having to do it extremely quickly indeed."

He called on the MoD to act quickly to challenge the ruling.

"I think this is a matter of such importance to the operational effectiveness of the Armed Forces that it must go to final appeal at the Lords for a definitive ruling on the whole dimension which this represents of soldiering in the field on operations," he said.
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