Armed Forces Bill
SAS member Ben Griffin was allowed to leave
the military after declaring to his superior officer that he was not prepared
to return to Iraq. Malcolm Kendall-Smith, an RAF doctor, was not so fortunate. As reported in a recent KPN, after his
refusal to serve in Iraq, he was not allowed to resign, but was court-marshalled, fined, and
sentenced to 8 months in prison.
The Iraq war
is as unpopular with soldiers as it is with civilians. According to the BBC website at least 1,000
troops have ‘deserted’ since the start of the Iraq war.
Against this background, the Armed Forces
Bill is currently before parliament. It
is proposed that severe penalties are to be imposed on soldiers who refuse to
take part in military occupations.
Section 8, which has not had much media attention, introduces a tougher
definition of desertion: those refusing
to take part in a military occupation of a foreign country can be imprisoned
for life. It seems the forces are to be
prepared for 21st century wars, pre-emptive wars involving long-term
demands, such as Afghanistan and Iraq.
The human rights
group Liberty points out that this review of the Bill should take the opportunity
to reform the structure of courts-martial so as to comply with the 1998 Human
Rights Act. They say that clause 23 of the new Bill seeks to change the present
system, whereby a member of the armed forces may apply for judicial review in
the civil courts against certain charges of a criminal nature. They advise the
creation of an impartial tribunal to bring military justice into line with
civilian standards. Indeed, without such
a provision, the new Bill is bound to be challenged in Court at once, as legal
oversight of laws passed in parliament is still the fashion in Britain.
Liberty asks that
you please check with your MP that he is aware of these defects.
Of course the best solution to the problem
of personnel refusing to serve would be to make sure that Britain
is not dragged into any more illegal wars.