MPs urged to vote against Overseas Operations Bill

By agency reporter
September 23, 2020

The Peace Pledge Union has urged MPs to vote against the Overseas Operations Bill that will come before the House of Commons for its second reading today (Wednesday 23 September). The Labour Party have criticised aspects of the bill but it remains unclear which way Labour MPs will vote.

The bill will introduce a “presumption against prosecution” of forces personnel for crimes alleged to have taken place longer than five years ago while operating outside the UK, including allegations of torture. The bill will also make it harder for veterans to take legal action against the Ministry of Defence.

The Peace Pledge Union (PPU), Britain's leading pacifist campaign group, pointed out that in the last year alone, compelling evidence of war crimes by British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan has been published by the Sunday Times, Panorama and the Guardian.

The PPU added that the bill will make armed forces even less accountable than they already are (the PPU is opposed to all war, whether legal or illegal).

Labour's Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey called last month for the Overseas Operations Bill to be "paused" but he has yet to make clear if the party's MPs will vote against it. In an unusual move, the Conservative Party have launched a petition on their website calling on Labour MPs to vote for the bill.

Symon Hill, Campaigns Manager of the Peace Pledge Union, said: “This bill threatens the rights of everyone mistreated by the UK armed forces, whether civilians in war zones or forces personnel abused by their superiors. It undermines a basic principle of British justice: that we are all subject to the same law. It is pure fantasy to suggest that veterans are being 'dragged through the courts'. Almost no British forces personnel and veterans have been prosecuted over alleged war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“This bill is not about helping veterans, thousands of whom are facing poverty and homelessness. It is about protecting the armed forces as institutions – and they're already some of the least accountable institutions in the UK. We urge Labour MPs, and all MPs, to have the guts to stand up to the militarist lobby and vote against a bill that offers to excuse war crimes.”

* More information on the Bill here

* Peace Pledge Union https://www.ppu.org.uk/

[Ekk/6]

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