Thank you for contacting me regarding the Overseas Operations Bill.
This Bill is concerned solely with ending the exposure of our service personnel to repeated criminal investigations with no new evidence. This has ruined the lives of too many of the people who have defended this nation in the past. This bill seeks to conclusively end the unregulated and fraudulent environment which rapacious amoral lawyers could previously exploit.
Let me reassure you, this Bill is in no way a barrier to justice; it is not an amnesty nor a statute of limitations. It does not prevent allegations of wrongdoing from over five years ago - including war crimes and torture - from being investigated and, where appropriate, prosecuted. A decision on whether to prosecute for such crimes will continue to be for the independent prosecutor to make - the Bill does not change this position.
Whilst there is a presumption against prosecution for allegations that happened over five years ago, there are clear exemptions to the 5-year principle. If an exceptional case is brought forward, it will be pursued.
I am keen the UK’s leading role in the promotion and protection of human rights, and unreserved condemnation of the use of torture remains completely unchanged. I am satisfied the Government remains committed to our obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law, including the UN Convention Against Torture.
It is right that our service personnel are held to the highest standards of behaviour and conduct. This bill is the first part in a series of measures which includes a review of how investigations are conducted, and crucially, the time it takes to do so to ensure the highest levels of confidence in military operations. Similarly, there is a significant programme of information and education running alongside the progress of the Bill, to ensure that our service personnel are fully aware of their rights and responsibilities.
I believe this Bill ensures that credible allegations can be investigated and pursued where necessary, but also that our Armed Forces will be protected from the vexatious claims and repeated investigations that so many have suffered in recent years.
I look forward to contributing to the debate on the Bill when it comes before the House of Commons on Wednesday 23rd September.
It is disappointing to see the misinterpretation of this Bill that has been circulating in the media and I very much hope this letter has addressed your concerns and properly explained the contents of this Bill.