|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, the noble Lord first asked whether soldiers were being put in double jeopardy, because he said that after being acquitted by a court martial they might be subject to a criminal trial. Let me put his mind absolutely at rest. There is no question of that. The doctrine of autre fois acquit, as it is known, applies. If a serviceman is acquitted by a court martial he will not stand trial again before a criminal court. A quite different situation arises where there has not been a trial in the court martial at all.
Secondly, the noble Lord asked me about the training of TA reservists. All mobilised reservists undergo pre-deployment training. That training, which is constantly reviewed, is carried out in accordance with extant directives issued by the chain of command.
So far as concerns the rules of engagement, they apply in exactly the same way in a court martial as in a criminal trial. For example, if the defence is self-defence, then it is the same defence in a court martial as it is in a criminal trial. Of course one has to have regard to all the circumstances, including the environment in which the offence is alleged to have taken place.
25 Oct 2004 : Column 1059
Finally, the noble Lord will not be surprised that I take a complete difference of view from him over the legality of the war. That is well understood. It was the subject of an Answer from my noble friend Lady Symons only a few days ago. But it is not the case that the question of proper conduct is only on the shoulders of young soldiers. The fact is that over 65,000 servicemen and women have served in Iraq. It is absolutely plain that only a very few soldiers have been reported for offences and that the vast majority of those servicemen and women comply rigorously with the law and uphold it. All the more reason, noble Lords may think, in cases where the same standards appear not to have been maintained that they are rigorously investigated and properly prosecuted if appropriate to do so.
Lord Bramall: My Lords, is the noble and learned Lord aware of the very deep concern which exists throughout the Army right to the very top about the way in which some of this is being handled, particularly the case of the young soldier in the Royal Tank Regiment charged in the civilian courts with the very serious charge of murder? Of course the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General cannot comment on that case, but could he say on what charge that soldier had earlier been arraigned before his commanding officer when on legal advice the case was dismissed?
Finally, as we are at war in Iraqas we are told by the Prime Minister100,000 rounds of ammunition having been fired in Basra alone, does the Attorney-General consider that our rules of engagement are sensible, consistent and robust enough to protect from prosecution on serious charges young soldiers who at least have been acting in good faith?
Lord Goldsmith: The noble and gallant Lord knows that, rightly, I cannot comment on a particular case. The points to which he refers will no doubt be ventilated before the criminal court, which will be able to adjudge them. As for rules of engagement, as I have already said, they apply. My noble friend made clear only a few days ago that they are robust and will apply in all the necessary circumstances. I add that we are very proud of the way in which our servicemen and women have acted. They are very well trained and able to deal with the difficult circumstances in which they find themselves.
Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, can the Attorney-General explain why he feels obliged to order further investigation by the civil authority when the services' prosecuting authority, having fully considered the case, has decided to dismiss it or not to proceed with it?
25 Oct 2004 : Column 1060
Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, it is my responsibility to consider whether the rule of law is being upheld and to considerI have jurisdiction to do sowhether or not there is evidence justifying a criminal prosecution. Where those are the facts, I will take that view. We believe strongly in the rule of law and if someone is alleged to have stepped beyond its bounds, it is right that there should be an investigation and, if appropriate, a prosecution at the end of it. I can say no more.
Baroness Crawley: My Lords, the United Kingdom provides military personnel to the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) and to the UK-led and funded International Military Assistance Training Team (IMATT). UNAMSIL's mandate has been extended until June 2005 and final withdrawal is expected by the end of 2005. UK personnel deployed to UNAMSIL will withdraw in line with its draw-down plan. Our commitment to IMATT is longer term and reviewed annually. The team plans to remain in Sierra Leone until at least 2010.
Lord McColl of Dulwich: My Lords, I thank the Minister very much for that reassuring and helpful reply. I ought to declare an interest, in that I worked in Sierra Leone a good deal with a charity called Mercy Ships, which has given me an opportunity to see at first hand the amazing work being done by the British Army and Navy there in not only restoring and maintaining the peace but in doing so much more beyondhelping to restore houses, clinics, and so on. Does the Minister agree that that has not got into the news possibly because it is good news?
Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord: good news is hard to find in some of our media outlets. In answering the noble Lord's supplementary question, I commend the exemplary work that he does with the Mercy Ships charity in Africa. He and his team are restoring the health of so many thousands of people through that charity work. He is an unsung hero in this House.
The Government are committed to supporting the security and development of Sierra Leone over the long haul. Sierra Leone has made remarkable progress after a decade of conflict. There is cause for optimism, but many of the root causes of conflict remain: youth unemployment, poor public services and a lack of economic growth.
25 Oct 2004 : Column 1061
Lord St John of Bletso: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the British troops' peacekeeping efforts in Sierra Leone have been a role model for such interventions? Does she further agree that the follow-through is as important as the original intervention to ensure that the police and the army are sufficiently trained to cope on their own? Also, what measures are being taken, such as the Anti-Corruption Commission, to ensure sustainable economic and legal developments in that country?
Baroness Crawley: My Lords, the UK is the main supporter of the Anti-Corruption Commission, to which we agreed a second phase of support earlier this year. That will include support to prepare a national anti-corruption strategy. Also included in the UK's post-conflict priorities for Sierra Leone, about which the noble Lord asked me, are reforming the security sector; strengthening the capacity of the Sierra Leone armed forces and police; bringing the diamond fields further under the control of the government of Sierra Leone; tackling corruption; and strengthening democratic institutions.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, although the support of the International Military Assistance Training Team is necessary for the time being, does not the timescale of 2010 mentioned by the noble Baroness indicate that the Government believe that the Sierra Leone armed forces will not be able to look after their own training needs for another six years? Should we not be paying more attention to the wider security needs of the region? Can she say anything about how the work that we are doing in Sierra Leone fits in with the United Nations' Office for West Africa, its Disarmament, Demobilisation and Rehabilitation programme and its wider work on conflict prevention and cross-border problems?
Baroness Crawley: My Lords, as the noble Lord will know, an enormous amount of activity is going on in conflict prevention. The United Kingdom is very content to be playing an active role in conflict prevention in Africa. For instance, we have conflict prevention training teams and advisers in South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, where they are supporting the Kofi Annan training facility, Addis Ababa and Abuja. So throughout Africa, an enormous amount of training and capacity building is going on and the UK is very much in the forefront of that.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|