Thank you for contacting me about the progress of the Overseas Operations Bill. I have read your email carefully and have noted the key points that you have made.
I consider the conduct of Armed Forces personnel serving overseas to be very important and I am proud of the fact the UK has some of the most committed and professional service personnel anywhere in the world.
I have full confidence that this Bill ensures allegations of torture will continue to be investigated and prosecuted wherever and whenever there is sufficient evidence to do so. As you are aware, the Bill puts in place a statutory presumption against prosecution. This stipulates that once five years have elapsed from the date of an incident, there must be new and compelling evidence for a prosecutor to seek prosecution of a service person or veteran for an offence committed during an overseas operation.
I appreciate that some individuals wish to see offences related to torture also exempted from the Bill. However, I want to reassure you that it provides no impunity for torture and makes provisions for the prosecution of any service personnel found to have been involved in such acts. Under the Bill, serious offences, including of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, will still be prosecuted on the basis of the sufficiency of new evidence and whether a prosecution would be in the public interest. Furthermore, service personnel are subject to the criminal law of England and Wales, and a disciplinary framework through Service Law, and have a duty to uphold both, wherever they are serving in the world.
I stood on a manifesto commitment to protect our Armed Forces from vexatious claims and repeated investigations that have blighted the lives of so many in recent years, so I welcome the provisions in this Bill which fulfil that promise. The 2019 public consultation, ‘Legal Protections for Armed Forces Personnel and Veterans serving in operations outside the United Kingdom’, found that 89 per cent of respondents supported the view that Armed Forces personnel and veterans should be afforded greater protection from the threat of prosecution for alleged historical offences, and I will continue to show my support for our service men and women by supporting this Bill.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
With best wishes.
Jonathan Lord MP
Member of Parliament for Woking