Thursday, 7 July 2011

European Court Condemns UK for Human Rights Violations in Iraq

Two very important judgments were issued this morning by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, in the cases of Al-Skeini and Others v. the United Kingdom and Al-Jedda v. the UK.

The applicants in Al-Skeini were civilians who had been killed while in detention by British troops in Iraq during the period from 1 May 2003 to 28 June 2004, while Iraq was officially occupied by the invading armies. Al-Jeddah was an Iraqi civilian detained for more than three years (2004-2007) in a detention centre in Basrah, Iraq that was run by British forces.
The Court held that it had jurisdiction over the United Kingdom in accordance with article 1 of the European Convention.
In Al-Skeini, the Grand Chamber went on to find that the failure to conduct an independent and effective investigation into the deaths of the relatives of five of the six applicants amounted to a violation of Article 2 (right to life) of the Convention. Three of the victims were shot dead or shot and fatally wounded by British soldiers; one was shot and fatally wounded during an exchange of fire between a British patrol and unknown gunmen; one was beaten by British soldiers and then forced into a river, where he drowned; and one died at a British military base, with 93 injuries identified on his body.
It is useful to recall that the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has already acknowledged that he can exercise jurisdiction over nationals of the United Kingdom for crimes committed in Iraq. These violations of the right to life may well meet the definitions of war crimes. Unfortunately, not only did the United Kingdom fail to investigate, for which it was found to have violated the European Convention.
The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court also failed to investigate. The Prosecutor also expressed satisfaction with the investigations carried out by the British into allegations of war crimes in Iraq. In a statement issued in February 2006, the Prosecutor said that his Office had ‘collected information on national proceedings, including commentaries from various sources, and that national proceedings had been initiated with respect to each of the relevant incidents’.
In the Al-Jedda case, the Grand Chamber said there had been a violation of article 5(1), which protects against arbitrary detention.
Judge Bonnello’s individual concurring opinion bears citation:
37.  I confess to be quite unimpressed by the pleadings of the United Kingdom Government to the effect that exporting the European Convention on Human Rights to Iraq would have amounted to “human rights imperialism”. It ill behoves a State that imposed its military imperialism over another sovereign State without the frailest imprimatur from the international community, to resent the charge of having exported human rights imperialism to the vanquished enemy. It is like wearing with conceit your badge of international law banditry, but then recoiling in shock at being suspected of human rights promotion.38.  Personally, I would have respected better these virginal blushes of some statesmen had they worn them the other way round. Being bountiful with military imperialism but bashful of the stigma of human rights imperialism, sounds to me like not resisting sufficiently the urge to frequent the lower neighbourhoods of political inconstancy. For my part, I believe that those who export war ought to see to the parallel export of guarantees against the atrocities of war. And then, if necessary, bear with some fortitude the opprobrium of being labelled human rights imperialists.  39.  I, for one, advertise my diversity. At my age, it may no longer be elegant to have dreams. But that of being branded in perpetuity a human rights imperialist, I acknowledge sounds to me particularly seductive.
Congratulations are due to Phil Shiner and his team at Public Interest Lawyers, and to Rabinder Singh QC, who argued the cases for the applicants before the Grand Chamber.

1 comment:

Luiza said...

It is never too late to dream, they say...