There has been a negative response to Conservative election pledges to protect military veterans from prosecution. In the North of Ireland where several cases are under investigation the reaction from nationalist parties has been predictable but ironically the Tory stance has also been criticised by Unionists including UUP MLA Doug Beattie himself a former soldier:
The question of an amnesty on prosecutions of British ex servicemen has been touted since Iraq War cases collapsed and its supporters assert that cases brought after the events sometimes many years later can be vexatious.
However it’s often years after that evidence to sustain cases comes to light. In the case of people tortured and maimed during the Kenya ‘emergency’ in the 1950s evidence only came to light during the last decade that allowed cases to be settled.
Similarly earlier this year the MOD quietly settled a case involving allegations of mistreatment during the Cypriot war of independence in the 1950s. The breakthrough in that instance was that although events had occurred over half a century earlier official records only ‘came to light’ in 2012. These cases often have caused horrendous suffering involving not just physical injury but long term psychological damage. One of the cases in relation to Cyprus involved a 16 year female detainee who was raped repeatedly by Security Forces.
The British Government paid out nearly £20 million in costs and compensation to more than 5,000 victims of colonial rule in Kenya during the revolt by members of the Kenya Land and Freedom Army in the 1950s and 1960s. In the Cypriot claim 33 claimants all in their 80s, wanted the Government to follow the Kenyan example and settle out of court because of their age.
It really should be for the State to settle, or failing that the courts of law to determine, if an allegation of military brutality or wrongdoing is vexatious. It is not an issue for politicians making a cheap electoral gambit while trying to be re-elected.
Image: British soldiers search a Greek Orthodox priest in Cyprus in 1955.
Assistant General Secretary Celtic League (12th November 2019)