New Forest East



Daily Telegraph – 23 December 2023

In your report (December 21) on Ireland’s attempt to prevent the UK from ending vexatious prosecution of service veterans, you correctly note that

“ECHR rules for the right to life and prohibition of torture require member states to investigate death and serious harm”.

The key term here is "investigate" – something the Defence Committee closely examined with expert legal witnesses during its 2017 inquiry hearings.

We found that a statute of limitation is permissible under international law, if two conditions are met. First, it must cover all former parties to the Northern Ireland conflict: applying it only to service personnel would be deemed unacceptable state impunity. Indeed, that principle has been conceded already in the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act 1998, limiting time served in prison for Troubles-related offences – including murder – to only two years, whether carried out by terrorist paramilitaries or by soldiers.

Secondly, we learnt that the ECHR requirement for an adequate investigation does not necessitate a subsequent prosecution. Instead, it can be met absolutely by a "truth recovery process" coupled with a guarantee of immunity, as was successfully operated in post-apartheid South Africa. We argued – and the Government agreed – that what had been good enough for Nelson Mandela should be good enough for the rest of us.

Leo Varadkar, the Taoiseach, wants the human rights court to endorse a double-standard and overrule our legislation. We should certainly not comply, in the unlikely event of it finding in his favour.

Chairman, Defence Committee, 2015-19
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA