Legislative Scrutiny: The Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill Contents



1 Introduction

Background: Key human rights issues at stake



Government’s policy position


Scope of Bill

Summary of the key elements of the Bill

The statutory presumption against prosecution of service personnel/veterans after 5 years: Clauses 1–7 of the Bill

Amendments to limitation periods for claims under the Human Rights Act and claims in tort: Clauses 8–11

Duty to consider derogation from the European Convention on Human Rights: Clause 12

Amendments to the Human Rights Act 1998

2 The adequacy of Ministry of Defence investigations

The investigations, litigation and inquiries

Inadequacy of Ministry of Defence investigations

3 Presumption against prosecution for offences after a 5-year period: Clauses 1–7

Is there a problem with prosecutions?

Should certain defendants have special protection from prosecution?

The illegality of a presumption against prosecution for torture, war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide

The Bill risks members of the Armed Forces being prosecuted before the International Criminal Court

Prosecutor to give weight to the adverse effect of deployment on overseas operations on the ability of the member of the Armed Forces to make sound judgements or exercise self-control

Prosecutor to give weight to the public interest in finality (where a person has been previously investigated and there is no new compelling evidence)

Requirement for the consent of the Attorney General

The presumption treats victims differently

4 Limitation period for Human Rights and civil claims

Limiting the period for claims for personal injury or death of soldiers or civilians in overseas operations: Clauses 8–10

Limitation period for human rights claims: Clause 11

Risks of a lack of access to justice and an effective remedy

Compatibility with human rights obligations

The hard deadline: No cases for human rights violations, personal injury or death may be brought after 6 years

Litigating the mental health of witnesses

Existing powers for dealing with unmeritorious or vexatious claims or practices

The powers of the Court to strike out claims which are unmeritorious, vexatious or an abuse of process

Role of the Solicitors Regulatory Authority in regulating solicitors

Use of the term “lawfare”

5 Duty to consider derogating from the ECHR: Clause 12

The legal framework for derogating under Article 15 ECHR

Meaning of “war” and “significant operations overseas”

What rights might be derogated from in respect of an overseas operation?

Parliamentary scrutiny of any derogation

6 Wider implications of the Bill on military operations

Impact on the reputation of the Armed Forces

The impact on the culture of compliance with the law of armed conflict and with international human rights law

Impact on the human dimension of warfare and developing trust with local civilian populations

Impact on the UK’s international reputation

Conclusions and recommendations

Annex: Potential amendments

Appendix: Available litigation statistics

Declaration of Interests

Formal minutes


Published written evidence

List of Reports from the Committee during the current Parliament

Published: 29 October 2020