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UK: Say NO to the Tory war crimes immunity bill

Top UK generals lay out their plans for permanent covert global warfare

Tuesday 6 October 2020, by siawi3



Say NO to the Tory war crimes immunity bill

Pablo Navarrete

5th October 2020

It’s up to all of us to read, understand, and oppose the terrifying implications of the Overseas Operations Bill, aka the Tory war crimes immunity legislation, says The Canary’s Joe Glenton.

Read more about the issues raised in this film here.




Defence minister launches propaganda blitz ahead of Commons war crime debate

21st September 2020

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has launched a propaganda blitz ahead of a Commons debate on a controversial war crimes bill. Critics say the bill could decriminalise torture, damage human rights, and help authoritarian regimes.

Due to be debated by MPs on 23 September, the overseas operations bill aims to introduce radical new limitations on prosecution for allegations of abuse by troops during wartime.

The Tories have been trying to loosen the laws which govern war throughout their time in power, framing the issue of so-called legacy allegations from Iraq and Afghanistan as a patriotic defence of the troops against “left-wing activist lawyers” and ‘devious Iraqis and Afghans’ eager to cash in.

This is despite the military already paying out millions in compensation over abuse allegations, as the army’s one-time top lawyer in Iraq has noted, and the fact that many allegations were reported by serving military personnel and veterans.


Following an MOD tweet about the bill on 16 September, there was an immediate backlash on social media. Defence minister Johnny Mercer then posted a panicked response on Twitter in which he tried, once again, to frame the bill as being in the interests of military personnel while attacking those who questioned the potential impact as “ludicrous” and framing their arguments as “misleading.”

Mercer told his followers that he was ready to field questions on the issue.

Critics include the NGO Freedom from Torture, which asked about a section of the bill which includes a presumption against prosecution in some cases.

Mercer is yet to respond as promised.

Decriminalising torture

The proposals have drawn criticism from a number of individual experts and legal and human rights organisations in recent years.

Freedom from Torture claim that the legislation will “effectively decriminalise torture”

Meanwhile, Reprieve highlighted that the:

legislation which would create a presumption against prosecution for any acts of torture undertaken by UK personnel which took place more than five years ago.

Video here

And Warwick University law professor Andrew Williams, who has written extensively on the topic, warned that the proposed legislation is an attack on lawyers and the rule of law.

Far from being a bid to save the troops from legal issue down the line, the Tory war crimes bill looks more and more like an attempt to skirt the rule of law and shore up the UK’s aggressive foreign policy aims.




Top UK generals lay out their plans for permanent covert global warfare

Joe Glenton

2nd October 2020

Top UK generals have laid out their vision for a permanent state of covert global warfare. The plan includes using drones and special forces and a ramping-up of hostilities in the Far East.

Speaking on 30 September 2020 at the Policy Exchange think-tank, the head of the UK military general Nick Carter outlined his plan for the UK’s part in the US-led global Forever War.

The multi-faceted new approach will be known as the Integrated Operating Concept and aims to counter enemies like China who, he claimed, operate at a lower level than outright war-fighting, preferring covert tactics like espionage and cyber warfare.

Carter said the concept recognised:

the need to compete below the threshold of war in order to deter war, and to prevent one’s adversaries from achieving their objectives in fait accompli strategies.

He also indicated that this new approach to military operations could occur anywhere in the world with no time limits:

a campaign posture that includes continuous operating on our terms and in places of our choosing.

The shadow war

Ahead of Carter’s keynote speech, another senior general had already touted some of the details of what the next phase of UK military adventurism will look like.

On 29 September, general Mark Carleton-Smith, one-time head of the UK’s Special Forces, addressed journalists at the headquarters of Britain’s secretive psychological warfare and propaganda unit, 77th Brigade at Dennison Barrack, Berkshire.

A renewed push into the Far East, high-tech drone swarms and an expanded Special Forces capacity featured among the new initiatives the British defence establishment is planning.

Carleton-Smith told those present:

In time, Armoured Fighting Vehicles will be command hubs – ‘motherships’ – commanding teams of robots and thereby generating a new form of combat mass. They will be supported by longer range and more powerful artillery than the Army have ever used, firing on targets identified by swarms of drones.

He said that there was a “market for a more persistent presence from the British Army in the Far East.”

He added:

If we are going to see a UK presence in the region from Carrier Strike Groups I would like to see some of those naval assets disembarking elements of the British Army for their own training in that part of the world.

Carleton-Smith said that “growing our Special Operations and intelligence capability” was essential to stay ahead of rivals. He insisted that their role would be to “shine a light into the shadows.”

The Forever War

But we should see the Integrated Operating Approach in the context of the UK government’s Integrated Review. This mass audit of every aspect of UK foreign policy – from overseas development and nuclear weapons to defence and intelligence – was due to be published in 2020. But it has been delayed by the coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis.

The shift towards covert warfare and military operations has been underway for some time. And the new integrated approach could be read as an attempt to sell to the public the increased use of drones, militias, Special Forces, cyber and air power which has characterised UK military activity since the failure of the Iraq and Afghan wars.

One of the key democratic issues is the accountability of such operations. It is government convention to refuse comment on operations of the kind the generals are looking to expand; operations which are already largely exempt from Freedom of Information requests on the grounds of so-called ‘national security’.

As the UK’s top generals push for their vision of perpetual war, this accountability is needed more than ever.