Guardian 19 Jun 2013 said:The supreme court ruling that the Ministry of Defence can be sued for negligence, that the scope of the Human Rights Act should be extended and the traditional doctrine of combat immunity should be interpreted narrowly, will have a huge impact on military commanders, senior officials made clear on Wednesday.
Anxiety about the effect on discipline, morale, training, and the conduct of future operations, was reflected in a sharp statement issued by the defence secretary, Philip Hammond.
"I am very concerned at the wider implications of this judgment, which could ultimately make it more difficult for our troops to carry out operations and potentially throws open a wide range of military decisions to the uncertainty of litigation," he said.
Battlefield commanders have already expressed concern about what they considered an unacceptable encroachment of human rights laws in operations against insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have led to a stream of court cases, both criminal and civil...
I have such mixed feelings about this 6-3 majority Supreme Court ruling stipulating the application of the Human Rights Act to members of the Armed Forces on operations. While I understand that its provisions are not intended in 'the heat of battle' or for 'high level decisions', I am still left in some confusion.
I am all for holding the Government's feet to the fire regarding the provision of proper equipment for our own forces but will the HRA apply to our enemies too; how inclusive is it? For example, will we be required to provide them with proper protection before opening fire on them or will the HRA only apply to "our humans" which would be unfairly discriminatory? Perhaps enemy forces will have to be categorised as "inhumans" for legal purposes, thereby not qualifying for the human rights accorded our own personnel. Otherwise, we would have to warn them about any imminent danger before opening fire on them, wouldn't we?
Will we have to send out advance parties to clearly mark any trip hazards before an attack, thus reducing the risk of personal injury? Should uneven terrain be properly illuminated during night operations?
Or, indeed, is the day of the human combatant over? After all, robot systems should be able to fulfil most roles thus reducing the risk to personnel. It's just a question off waiting until they are invented/acquired. The ruling implies that any delay in their provision is not a justifiable reason to act without them so where lies the future for our armed forces?