UK News: What's behind Tory promise to protect veterans during Troubles? - - PressFrom - United Kingdom
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UK News What's behind Tory promise to protect veterans during Troubles?

21:35  11 november  2019
21:35  11 november  2019 Source:   news.sky.com

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The Conservatives have pledged to protect military veterans from "vexatious prosecution" for killings that took place during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

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Claiming that the Human Rights Act has been "weaponised" against former British soldiers, the Tories have proposed amending the act to "specify that it doesn't apply to issues - including any death in the Northern Ireland Troubles - that took place before the Act came into force in October 2000".

The proposal comes after campaigns, in the British media and in parliament, protesting against an apparent increase in the investigation and prosecution of former British soldiers.

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So are former British soldiers being targeted for prosecution, and will the change prevent future cases being brought?

These proposals will not halt prosecutions of veterans. Criminal prosecutions brought by the state will be unaffected. Hundreds of murders during the Troubles are still being reviewed by the authorities in Northern Ireland and murder prosecutions are still possible if fresh evidence arises.

a man holding a sign © Other

The Human Rights Act proposal would only impact on inquests and investigations of the state's role in deaths, closing off one avenue used to secure examination of historic killings. The measures would also apply to alleged paramilitaries.

But claimants could still apply directly to the European Court of Human Rights and legal experts say the Strasbourg court would likely say the UK had to comply.

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The proposals would also not prevent ongoing prosecutions from being completed.

The evidence of recent investigations and prosecutions also shows that former military personnel make up the minority of cases.

More than 3,200 people were killed in the Troubles. According to the Ministry of Defence, 722 British military personnel were killed in paramilitary attacks, while 301 people were killed by the British military, the majority of them civilians.

a screenshot of a person © Other

Since 2011, 26 prosecutions for historical offences linked to the Troubles have been opened. Of these 21 were of alleged paramilitaries, and five involved British military personnel.

Of cases completed, just four brought convictions, all of them of paramilitaries.

So the majority of prosecutions have been focused on paramilitaries, not soldiers.

And the same is true of ongoing investigations.

Since 2006, the Police Service of Northern Ireland has been reviewing all murder cases linked to the Troubles.

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The latest figures, to 2017, show that of 923 outstanding cases just 283 were attributable to the security forces, which includes the police and security services as well as the military.

Critics say former servicemen and women are disproportionately investigated as the military feature in 30% of cases but were responsible for just 10% of killings.

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Tory veterans prosecution pledge condemned in Belfast and Dublin .
The Conservative pledge to change the law to protect army veterans from legal action has drawn widespread criticism in Northern Ireland. The leaders of both Sinn Fein and the Democratic Ulster Party condemned the move and there was a warning it could create a "moral equivalence between veterans and the terrorist".Sinn Fein president Mary-Lou McDonald said it was outrageous that anybody, Tory or otherwise, would propose to create further hardship and frustration for families seeking justice.

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