They deserve better

Military action means taking difficult decisions

No other country is persecuting its soldiers in the way that Britain is hounding troops over Iraq

There is widespread agreement that the pursuit of British servicemen and women for abuses allegedly committed during the Iraq conflict has become disproportionate and unjust. We have reported how David Cameron, then Prime Minister, wanted to end the investigations being carried out by the Iraq Historical Allegations Team (Ihat) but was told by Government lawyers that this was not possible.
The principal concern has been the risk that the International Criminal Court would step in to investigate if the British authorities failed to do so effectively and independently. But this rationale has been demolished by the fact that so many cases referred to Ihat by discredited legal firms like Public Interest Lawyers have been shown to be unfounded. It is, frankly, hard to believe that it is not within the powers of the Government to end this iniquity, not least in the national interest. After all, how committed will servicemen and women be to the prosecution of future wars if they face being investigated years later for putting their lives on the line for their country?
The problem, as is so often the case with such investigations, is that the limited purpose for which it was established has been hijacked by those who would do harm to the reputation of our Armed Forces and, as a result, has got completely out of hand. No other country in the world is putting its servicemen and women through this sort of legal process, so why are we? We report today how a former Army captain commended for her work in Iraq was dragged from her bed and arrested by the Ihat team and has now been paid compensation for wrongful detention. Three servicemen face prosecution for manslaughter despite being cleared a decade ago by a military inquiry.
This investigation, set up in 2010 to last two years, will not now be completed until 2019 at the earliest – some 16 years after the action in Iraq took place. The principle that justice delayed is justice denied applies as much to the alleged perpetrator as to the victims. If the Government cannot shut down Ihat then some mitigation is needed. At the very least, dawn arrests of those under investigation as though they are common criminals must stop. The Government should also announce that the UK will derogate from the European Convention on Human Rights in respect of future overseas armed conflicts and revive Armed Forces’ Crown immunity for foreign combat missions.