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Dr Thomas Hansen and Dr Carla Ferstman (Essex) have submitted their joint response to the Ministry of Defence’s open consultation concerning ‘Legal protections for armed forces personnel and Veterans serving in operations outside the United Kingdom’.

The Ministry of Defence is considering putting in place a range of measures aimed at shielding former and current service personnel from investigations and prosecutions and other legal scrutiny, including a ‘Statutory Presumption against Prosecution’, a civil litigation ‘longstop’ and other steps that aim at ending what the Secretary of State for Defence describes as “lawfare”.

In their response, Hansen and Ferstman set out why they believe the proposed measures are legally unsound, including the challenges they present from an international and domestic law perspective.

Arguing that the Ministry of Defence is “quite plainly on the wrong track when focusing on exploring measures aimed at exempting the armed forces from ordinary standards of justice with reference to an unjustified narrative of ‘lawfare’”, they urge the Government to not introduce measures that would in effect grant combat immunity for serious crimes under international law reportedly committed in past conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Northern Ireland, but instead focus on putting in place an adequate institutional framework for the independent and effective investigation of alleged crimes.