The families of four soldiers killed in Iraq have been told by the Supreme Court that they can pursue damages claims against the government.
Liverpool, UK -- (SBWIRE) -- 06/21/2013 -- In a landmark judgement delivered by the UK’s highest court yesterday, it was ruled that soldiers in battle abroad are still protected by the European Convention on Human Rights, in particular, Article 2 of the Convention which imposes a duty on authorities to protect the right to life.
The legal action was brought by the families of three soldiers who had been killed by roadside bombs whilst using army Snatch Land Rovers in Iraq. A separate case was also brought by the family of a soldier killed in a friendly-fire incident in a tank, also in Iraq in 2003 and by two other soldiers who were left seriously injured in the same incident.
The Ministry of Defence had fought hard to limit the extension of human rights and negligence laws onto the battlefield. Previous court cases had found that the European Convention on Human Rights applied to British soldiers in British bases abroad in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan. In their arguments, MoD lawyers had said the claims should be struck out by the court because the soldiers were no longer covered by the legislation once they left their bases.
The Supreme Court judges rejected these arguments, reaching the conclusion that the soldiers were within the UK’s jurisdiction when they were killed and therefore were still subject to the human rights legislation.
The ruling is already being described as a major shift in the way the courts view the MoD’s obligations to the safety of troops in action, with the potential that more soldiers who have been seriously injured on duty or the families of those soldiers who have been killed will be able to make claims against the MoD under negligence laws.
Attention will now turn to the High Court where this judgement will be tested as the families begin their negligence claims.
Military injury claims expert Mark Flynn, a Solicitor and Partner at Canter Levin & Berg added his own thoughts to the ruling and what it might mean for other service personnel and their families looking to bring claims against the MoD:
“This is welcome news to members of our armed forces who are now afforded the rights and protections that all UK citizens should expect even when deployed abroad. In future it will be possible for service personnel to sue for both negligence and breaches of Human Rights.”
Armed forces compensation
As solicitors who deal with military injury claims, at Canter Levin & Berg we realise that accidents that can happen in the armed forces, in dangerous environments, such as deployments to combat zones or even training exercises. In these situations, even minor omissions in training or equipment failures could have disastrous results that lead to catastrophic injuries and fatalities.