Tory plan to water down Human Rights Act to protect ex-soldiers would turn UK into pariah, experts warn

Move could end in Britain leaving the European Convention on Human Rights altogether, prime minister told

Conservative plans to water down the Human Rights Act – to prevent prosecutions of soldiers accused of murders in Northern Ireland – will make the UK a pariah, the party has been warned.

The move could also lead to Britain leaving the European Convention on Human Rights altogether, at huge cost to the country’s reputation, legal experts said.

The backlash came after Boris Johnson pledged to end what the Tories call “unfair trials”, by banning inquests from returning verdicts of unlawful killings for deaths during the Troubles.

It would involve amending the HRA – the key legal route for families seeking to prove British state involvement in killings – to exclude any death in Northern Ireland before it came into force in October 2000.

But Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general, now running as an independent, attacked a confusing announcement that he suggested was simply “electioneering”.

“I am very sensitive to soldiers not being harassed about events that happened a long time ago, but the rule of law has to be upheld as well,” he told The Independent.

Amnesty International said: “All victims have the right to an independent investigation – that is a cornerstone of the rule of law throughout the world. “

And Mark Stephens, a solicitor specialising in human rights, said: “This sounds like clickbait for Tory voters.

“The UK has been a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights since 1958 and if we want to remain part of that convention any amendment of domestic legislation will have to be compliant with it.”

The Tory pledge follows a long campaign by veterans’ groups which have protested that the law is being abused to hound retired soldiers years after the events in question took place.

But, under Article 2 of the ECHR, nations are obliged to carry out an effective official investigation into deaths where lethal force had been used against individuals by agents of the state.

Investigations using the inquest system have been used by families to try to prove that their loved ones were killed unlawfully.

Mr Grieve added: “If we seek to stop inquests, we may fall foul of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. And if we seek to interfere with prosecutions, well, I’m staggered that any government would consider it.”

He warned it could lead to leaving the ECHR altogether, adding: “That would be a very bad destination indeed, because we are one of the leading countries seeking to apply it to improve standards, not just in Europe, but around the world.”

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland campaign manager, added: “It is essential that no-one, including members of the Armed Forces, is above the law.

“Yet in preventing former soldiers from being prosecuted over killings and other abuses that took place during the Northern Ireland conflict, that is exactly where this would place them.”

Simon Coveney, the Irish foreign affairs minister, also criticised the plan, tweeting: “There is no statute of limitations, no amnesty for anyone who committed crimes in Northern Ireland.

“The law must apply to all, without exception, to achieve reconciliation.”

With many thanks to: The Independent and Rob Merrick Deputy Political Editor for the original story@Rob_merrick


‘Secret court’ to hear ‘highly sensitive’ intelligence over 1992 Sean Graham bookies murders

A British soldier outside Sean Graham’s on the Ormeau Road, where five men were murdered

Highly sensitive intelligence is set to be examined at a so-called secret court hearing into alleged state collusion in a loyalist massacre at a Belfast bookmakers.

Eight lawsuits have been brought against the Chief Constable, Ministry of Defence and British Government on behalf of those killed and injured at the Sean Graham shop in February 1992.

Pictures of the five men gunned down in cold blood at Sean Graham bookies on the Ormeau Road in Belfast

A High Court judge on Friday vowed to press ahead with a closed material procedure (CMP) in a bid to ensure no further delays in the actions.

That will involve intelligence documents being assessed in private, with a special advocate barrister appointed to protect the rights of plaintiffs shut out from the hearing.

A memorial dedicated to the victims who were all gunned down in cold blood by a cowardly Loyalist death squad

Confirming a date for the CMP will be fixed next week, Mr Justice Maguire insisted: “I’m absolutely not going to tolerate any slippage.”

Five Catholics were shot dead when the Ulster Freedom Fighters opened fire inside the bookies on the lower Ormeau Road.

A picture of the immediate aftermath of the Sean Graham bookies massacre

Several other customers were wounded in the mass shooting.

Victims and their relatives are seeking damages for alleged negligence and misfeasance in public office.


The actions involve claims that a rifle used in the atrocity was smuggled in from South Africa by a state agent.

According to the plaintiffs’ case, the authorities should have known the weapon was part of a shipment overseen by Brian Nelson, a loyalist paramilitary who worked for British intelligence.

Litigation is being taken amid further hold-up in the completion of a Police Ombudsman investigation into the Sean Graham attack.

The watchdog has been unable to publish a long-awaited report due to the emergence of new material.

Earlier this year the Police Service of Northern Ireland apologised after finding relevant information on a computer system which had been overlooked.

In court on Friday, counsel for one of the victims said it was “even more alarming” when it emerged for a second time last month that the PSNI had discovered more documents.

“It was described as significant, sensitive information which has not been made available previously to the Ombudsman,” he added.

Photograph of three of the men allegedly involved in the Sean Graham massacre

However, Mr Justice Maguire made it clear that he was not prepared to wait until the report is finally published.

“We are going to get on with it, I’m absolutely fed up with delay after delay in these cases,” he said.

Outside court a solicitor representing the families explained their reasons for taking legal action.

Niall Murphy of KRW Law said: “These cases involve concerns of collusion in the commission of this atrocity, the protection of state agents from prosecution in the aftermath, and perhaps most egregiously, the role of the state in arming the UFF.

“The Chief Constable has applied for the protection of a secret court by means of a Closed Material Procedure to deal with his disclosure responsibilities regarding sensitive intelligence.”

With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph and Alan Erwin for the original story 

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SAS forced to take out job advert as elite regiment battles recruitment crisis


Numbers have been affected by a drop in the overall size of the Armed Services and a shortage of troops with combat experience

SAS boses are now taking out job adverts as they struggle with a recruitment crisis(Image: MoD/Crown copyright 2017)

SAS bosses have resorted to taking out a job advert as they battle to deal with a recruitment crisis.

An unprecedented call for volunteers to serve as “special forces communicators” has been made in Soldier, the Army’s magazine.

The move follows the disclosure of a struggle to find new members of the SAS, SBS, the Special Reconnaissance Regiment and the Special Forces Support Group.

SAS soldier in full military combat uniform

Numbers have been hit by a fall in the overall size of the Armed Services and a shortage of troops with combat experience.

Coupled with that has been a relentless increase in the demands placed on special forces units.

The toll of non-stop training and deployment, known as “the wheel of death”, has made joining the SAS less attractive

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The toll they face of non-stop training and deployment, known as “the wheel of death”, has made joining them less attractive. Last night one source admitted: “The talent pool has dwindled.”

The ad in Soldier says: “The Special Forces Communicator is selected for their technical acumen, tactical abilities and physical robustness to deliver and enable information where needed.”

SAS undercover sniper

Successful applicants will be a member of a “trade of trades” and will be entitled to additional special forces pay.

Anyone volunteering must pass a six-month course similar to parts of SAS selection. Recruits do a month of arduous physical training in the Brecon Beacons but get slightly more time to complete tests.

They are then screened for their aptitude for specialist communications and, like all other SAS candidates, must pass courses in conduct after capture, close-quarter battle and elite parachute training.

One source said: “The SFC are very highly rated guys. They go everywhere and do everything the SAS do. They have to be fit and robust.

The SAS was made famous by the Iranian Embassy siege in May 1980(Image: Press Association)

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“They are not members of the SAS but they are attached to it. They have their own badge and motto ‘Colloquendo Imperamus’ which effectively means ‘Command through Communications’.”

The SFCs’ emblem features a sword with Roman numerals and three signal flashes.

The advert in Soldier follows the revelation that special forces troop numbers are seen as “worryingly” low.

Both the SAS and the SBS should have a strength of around 400 to 450 men and need to recruit 20 to 30 a year each, with the Parachute Regiment and Royal Marines traditionally supplying the bulk.

Selection courses are run twice a year for up to 120 candidates and usually have a pass rate of around 10 per cent.

But sources said the last two courses have produced far fewer new recruits.

One said: “Ten years ago there were over 100,00 soldiers, whereas today there are 75,000.

A lot of the guys who had combat experience have either left or are too far into their careers to want to undertake SAS selection.

“And the demands on the SAS are so huge many leave to save their marriages.”

Sandhurst’s millions from tyrant states EXCLUSIVE: by Alan Selby

Army bosses pocketed £4.5million in a year from training recruits from regimes with questionable human rights records at Sandhurst military academy.

Some 55 cadets came to the renowned establishment in 2018 from such states.

Bahrain, which is accused of engaging in systematic torture, extra-judicial killing and enforced disappearances, sent five cadets to the Berkshire academy once attended by Princes William and Harry.

Another 25 were sent by the UAE, Oman and Qatar, which between them are accused of infringements including torture, illegal detentions and silencing political opponents.

With many thanks to the: Daily Mirror and Sean for the original story

The Troubles: Legality of Army ‘amnesties’ questioned

There have been calls for a statute of limitations on prosecutions of soldiers who served in the North of Ireland

Any statute of limitations for Troubles-era prosecutions could breach the UK’s international legal obligations, MPs have been told.

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee was discussing legacy issues on Wednesday.

It heard from two Queen’s university law professors as well as the Committee for the Administration of justice.

There have been calls for a statute of limitations on prosecutions of soldiers who served in Northern Ireland.

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Majority oppose amnesty over NI Troubles
Prof Louise Mallinder told the committee she was concerned that such proposals would not be compatible with the UK’s international legal requirements and would not be supportive of the peace process.

Why should British Army death squads be allowed to get away with cold-blooded murder?

“We don’t think that international law necessarily requires prosecutions in all instances, we think there is space for flexibility around how one deals with the past,” she said.

“We think nonetheless under the European Convention on Human Rights there is a clear obligation for effective investigations of serious human rights violations.

Secret undercover British Army unit who operated in the North of Ireland during the Troubles and who were responsible for dozens of murders

“Where a statute of limitations might conflict with those obligations would be where it creates an obstacle to effective investigations being held.”

Prof Louise Mallinder was appearing before the NIAC Norh of Ireland Affairs Committee

Prof Mallinder said there had not been much clarity over what a statute of limitations would look like, but that the best indication had been the most recent Defence Committee report which talked about a qualified statute of limitations.

The qualifications would only apply to cases that had already been investigated and would not prevent new investigations and possible prosecutions where there was compelling new evidence.

However, she said there had been repeated concerns expressed by the courts and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary about how effective investigations had been into allegations from the past, particularly in cases involving the armed forces.

‘Turned over’ by the Army?
“The question would be how would the idea of repeat investigations be treated and if it was treated in a way to prevent any of those cases being reviewed that’s when the statute of limitations would begin to resemble an amnesty, where it would begin to resemble impunity for state actors,” she said.

“That would be deeply damaging in Northern Ireland and would undermine the Stormont House proposals and I think would be damaging to Britain’s reputation in the world.”

Bob Stewart said solders didn’t feel the military were on their side during Troubles-era investigations

Conservative MP Bob Stewart, who served in Northern Ireland as a soldier, said: “I was never involved in a fatality shooting before 1973, but I do know thereafter we were really turned over.

“To us, it didn’t seem like the military or indeed the Royal Ulster Constabulary were on our side if you were on the receiving end of one of these investigations.”

Kieran McEvoy, another law professor from Queen’s University, told the committee there was a great risk in judging the quality of past investigations using the benefit of hindsight.

“The reality of the numbers of murders that people were dealing with – you had teams of detectives investigating a murder and then they’re moved to a another murder within a couple of days, that’s the human reality of it,” he said.

With many thanks to: BBCNI for the original story

Watch “Old Scores – Bobby Sands Documentary 1983” on YouTube

When Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister in May 1979, Martin McGuinness promised her a ‘long, hot summer’…

The IRA chief of staff had already identified his target: Lord Mountbatten

But a new book suggests the threat to the 70-year-old earl was well-known and key flaws in his security handed his killers their opportunity

Martin McGuinness, former IRA commander who would go on to become Deputy First Minister
Forty years ago today, Martin McGuinness, chief of staff of the IRA since 1978, was on the verge of realising the ambition he had vowed to fulfil when he took command. He had set his sights, he told the army council and GHQ staff, on creating “a liberated zone along the border.”

On August 27, 1979, he proved his aim was true when the IRA murdered Lord Louis Mountbatten off the west coast of Ireland at Mullaghmore in Co Sligo, just across the border from Northern Ireland.

Later that same day, 18 soldiers, the majority from the Parachute Regiment, were murdered by the IRA at Warrenpoint. A civilian also died after soldiers opened fire, believing he was one of the terror gang.

The bomb was detonated from the Republic on the other side of Carlingford Lough.

McGuinness had added an east/west dimension to his highly successful north/south border strategy.

With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph for the original story 


Mountbatten anniversary Service held to mark IRA assassination

John Maxwell and Mary Hornsey lay a wreath in memory of their son, Paul Image Caption John Maxwell

Services have been held to mark the 40th anniversary of two IRA attacks in Mullaghmore and Narrow Water.

On 27 August 1979, Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Queen’s second cousin, and three others were killed after a bomb exploded on his fishing boat in County Sligo.

A few hours later, two IRA bombs went off at Narrow Water, near Warrenpoint in County Down, killing 18 soldiers.

It was the highest death toll suffered by the Army on a single day in NI.

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The Provisional IRA: How 1969 sparked deadly campaign
In a statement at the time, the IRA said the killing of Lord Mountbatten was “one of the discriminate ways we can bring to the attention of the English people the continuing occupation of our country”.

His 14-year-old grandson, Nicholas Knatchbull, and 15-year-old Paul Maxwell, a local boy who was working as a boatman, died when the boat exploded.

Another passenger, the Dowager Lady Brabourne, died the following day.

Paul Maxwell’s mother and father were among those who gathered for an outdoor service on Tuesday.

Lord Louis Mountbatten Image copyright PA
Double DVD featuring over five hours SEARCHING FOR THE CUNT Lord Louis Mountbatten was murdered when the IRA blew up his fishing boat

It was held on a clifftop overlooking the scene of the attack, and began with a minute’s silence.

Paul Maxwell’s mother, Mary Hornsey, said it was “absolutely wonderful that the community came out today”.

“It has helped us enormously because I feel that in the service there was love and support for our family, and we appreciate that,” she said.

Mary Hornsey Paul Maxwell’s mother

Mary Hornsey, said it was “absolutely wonderful” her family had been supported by the community

“I feel really privileged to be here, with all of these people.”

John Maxwell, Paul’s father, said it was “a great thing that so many people took the trouble to turn out”.

Lord Mountbatten, who was 79 years old when he was killed, had traditionally spent summer holidays at Classiebawn Castle near Mullaghmore.

Soldiers targeted
As the news of Lord Mountbatten’s death spread in 1979, the first of two bombs exploded in County Down.

It had been planted under hay on a lorry at the side of the road. When it exploded it killed six soldiers who had been travelling past in a four-ton lorry.

Veterans gathered at the roadside at Narrow Water Image copyright Niall Carson/PA gathered to remember the 18 soldiers murdered by two IRA bombs

As the injured were airlifted from the scene, a second device detonated, killing 12 more soldiers who had been taking cover in a nearby gatehouse.

A short time later, a local civilian, 28-year-old Michael Hudson was found dead nearby. He had been killed by Army gunfire.

Peter McHugh, who was involved in the recovery of Lord Mountbatten’s body, said while there had not been formal anniversary events each year, the bombing was “hugely significant” for people locally.

‘A time when horror visited this coastline’
Video caption ‘A time when horror visited this coastline’
“Time has moved on; it’s 40 years now, there is a huge distance time-wise between what happened, dreadful and all as it was.

“So it’s nice to see that the family is all here.”

At Narrow Water, the names of all those who died were read out and the Last Post was sounded.

Gathered at the scene were the families and friends of those killed and soldiers.

Among them was General Sir Michael Jackson, who had been a major in the Parachute Regiment at the time of the bombing.

Wreaths were laid at the scene.

What were the Troubles?
The conflict in Northern Ireland known as the Troubles lasted almost 30 years and cost the lives of more than 3,500 people.

In August 1969, the UK government sent troops to impose control.

The conflict in Northern Ireland, which has killed thousands, has political and religious roots that are centuries old.

Some people in Northern Ireland, especially the mainly Protestant Unionist community, believe it should remain part of the United Kingdom.

Others, particularly the mainly Catholic Nationalist community, believe it should leave the UK and become part of the Republic of Ireland.

With many thanks to: BBC NI for the original story