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Queen's Speech plan will put armed forces above the law

UK armed forces in training

Queen's Speech plan will put armed forces above the law

The UK government has announced legislation to end so-called "vexatious" claims against armed forces personnel. 

The plan was set out in the Queen's Speech - the government's legislative programme - on 19 December. It follows Boris Johnson’s general election pledge to water down human rights legislation in relation to the armed forces.

The Peace Pledge Union described the phrase “vexatious claims” as a dog-whistle term for the militarist lobby, who use it to refer to almost any prosecution of UK forces personnel for war-related crimes.

The plan comes less than five weeks after the Sunday Times revealed widespread evidence of the abuse of civilians by UK armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In reality, armed forces personnel in the UK are almost never prosecuted, let alone convicted, of war-related crimes.

The PPU pointed out that armed forces leaders are also allowed to abuse the human rights of their own personnel, who are denied basic employment rights, such as the right to join a trade union and to leave their job when they choose.

Symon Hill, Campaigns Manager of the Peace Pledge Union, said:

“The ink is barely dry on the latest revelations of abuse by UK forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, but Boris Johnson is trying to put the armed forces above the law. This is not about helping veterans, many of whom face poverty and homelessness. It is about protecting the armed forces as an institution and satisfying Johnson’s supporters in the military lobby and pro-war press.

“It is a fundamental principle of democracy that we are all subject to the same law. Decisions about prosecution should be based on the evidence, not on whether Boris Johnson approves of your job.”

The Queen's Speech also promised to further embed the "armed forces covenant" in law, but no detail was given. The phrase "armed forces covenant", which was used for the first time in the year 2000, is misrepresented as an old idea by the militarist lobby, who now tend to use it in any context in which they wish to promote the interests of the armed forces or arms industry. 

Through the Queen's Speech, Boris Johnson also promised to maintain high levels of military spending. This has been frequently demanded of NATO members by US President Donald Trump.