HAYES IN THE HOUSE: By John Hayes
Drafted in 1950, as a response to the previously unimaginable horrors of the Second World War –particularly the Holocaust - the essence of the European Convention on Human Rights was inspired by a noble purpose.
Britons, indeed, played a role in establishing it; Winston Churchill advocated a charter which would ensure that “people owned the government, and not the government the people”, and David Maxwell-Fyfe, a prosecutor at the Nuremburg trials and later Home Secretary, was one of the creators of the ECHR. Designed to enforce international justice and prevent future genocide, the Convention was also intended as a democratic bulwark against the communist menace then ensnaring the continent.
In that context, it is extraordinary that more than sixty years later the same convention is being used for reasons which would doubtless make many of its originators squirm. Court rulings which have allowed the ECHR to be applied to the battlefield have led to unscrupulous legal firms pursuing our soldiers for civil and criminal claims - with the very worst of these greedy lawyers apparently looking for people willing to invent charges against British troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan years ago.
These allegations –invariably entirely false- have caused dreadful stress and anguish to our servicemen and their families, leaving the Government with huge legal bills.
Servicemen and women, who risk their lives for our country, deserve better. They shouldn’t have to fight human rights lawyers at home as well as enemies overseas.
I was delighted that the Government recently reassured British troops that they will never again be subjected to such legal witch-hunts, with these European human rights laws no longer applying in combat situations.
By suspending parts of the ECHR during future conflicts we can protect our troops from spurious claims and allow our military to get on with the job without fear of being prosecuted. The Government is also setting a time limit to stop further cases being brought, and is ending the financial incentives used to bring claims against troops on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis.
The fallacy that what we are entitled to matters more than what we owe to others is at the heart of all this. Instead of talking about supposedly inalienable rights –often little more than a selfish plea for privilege - we should remember our debt to past generations for securing our freedoms and our duties to those yet to enjoy them. The biblical foundations of Western Civilisation oblige the question - if it’s rights, not duties, that matter, why do they feature neither in the Ten Commandments nor in the teachings of Jesus?
That avaricious, morally relativist rights lawyers were able to get rich off the backs of innocent servicemen was a disgrace, they have given succour to our enemies and undermined our security. Hopefully the days of the pernicious rights culture are coming to an end.
Our armed forces make huge sacrifices to keep us safe; the very least that our nation can do is to end this farcical culture of vexatious claims. Those that serve their country will now be protected.