British military operations are at risk of being undermined by the march of European human rights laws and health and safety red tape into the battlefield, experts have warned.
Enemies could view the courtroom as a new front in any future conflict as a way of ‘paralysing’ the armed forces, a report by the Policy Exchange think tank said today.
Defense Secretary Philip Hammond admitted he was ‘concerned’ about recent court judgments which could make it ‘more difficult’ to carry out operations.
In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court said in June that the families of soldiers killed in Iraq could launch claims for damages under negligence and human rights laws.
Lawyers representing relatives said the ruling meant the Ministry of Defense owed a duty of care to properly equip servicemen and women who went to war.
The government warned the decision could put national security at risk because it opened up war to ‘the uncertainty of litigation’.
Tom Tugendhat, one of the authors of the Policy Exchange report and a former military assistant to the chief of the defense staff, said: ‘Over the past decade, legal steps based on the European Convention on Human Rights have undone safeguards Parliament drew up to ensure military commanders have the freedom of maneuver to make vital decisions on the ground.
‘The armed forces neither are, nor should be, above or exempt from the law. But, imposing civilian norms on the military is deeply misplaced
‘The focus on rights misunderstands the nature of armed forces. As the ultimate guarantors of a nation’s liberty they have agreed, voluntarily, to surrender or limit many of their own rights. Without this the nation would be undefended.’