Who guards the guardians? MoD support for former and serving personnel Contents


121.The United Kingdom ended its combat operations in Iraq in 2009. Eight years later, and some 14 years since the start of the conflict, a significant number of service personnel remain under investigation for alleged misconduct in that conflict.

122.IHAT, the MoD-created vehicle for these investigations, has proved to be unfit for purpose. It has become a seemingly unstoppable self-perpetuating machine and one which has proved to be deaf to the concerns of the armed forces, blind to their needs, and profligate with its own resources. We look to the Secretary of State to set a firm and early date for the remainder of the investigations to be concluded, and for the residue of cases to be prosecuted by a replacement body which can command the confidence of the armed forces.

123.A significant factor in this was the legal industry created around IHAT. That is now being dealt with by the SRA and Mr Shiner, the founder of PIL has now been struck off as a solicitor. The current Secretary of State is to be commended for his personal efforts in highlighting the conduct of law firms to the relevant authorities. However at the same time as it condemned those legal firms the MoD continued to authorise payments to them, including the use and payment of a middleman in Iraq who worked for both sides. Even if this was, as the MoD asserted, a contractual requirement, the failure to challenge the arrangement when those costs grew was a serious failing. Rightly or wrongly, it opened up to question the MoD’s commitment to supporting servicemen and women and veterans.

124.Of equal concern is the fact that former senior military personnel have questioned the culture of Whitehall and its attitude towards the military. Again, this points to a lack of genuine understanding around the human side of military matters in Whitehall. Ministers must address this as a matter of urgency. They must show leadership and ensure that the well-worn statement of “our people are our finest asset” is reflected in the policies and decisions that are made.

125.The MoD has made progress in its support for those under investigation. We welcome its recent announcements on funding legal aid for those under investigation, and the possibility of derogating from the ECHR in times of conflict. However, they are both works in progress.

126.Our armed forces continue to strive to meet the highest standards of conduct. However, the perception of them on the International stage has undoubtedly been unfairly altered by this process, which in some respects has been self-inflicted.

127.IHAT, and the subsequent explosion of so-called ‘lawfare’ in the United Kingdom has directly harmed the defence of our Nation. Unless the MoD learns the lessons of IHAT, the armed forces will be hindered in their ability to defend the Nation and the national interest.

128.With the prospect of investigations into British deployments in Afghanistan and Northern Ireland, the Government must prove both in private, but especially in public that in adhering to the pursuit of justice and the rule of law, it does not lose sight of its moral responsibility and its commitment to the Armed Forces Covenant with those who have served.

129.There is a deep unfairness at the heart of the IHAT process and this is in danger of spilling over to other conflicts. Our Report offers the MoD an opportunity to reset the balance.

9 February 2017