The Secretary of State, Karen Bradley, has a ‘moral duty’ to shield British soldiers who killed people in Derry, Iraq or Afghanistan from prosecution, according to the Westminster defence committee.
Britain’s military affairs scrutineers said members of their armed forces should be given an amnesty regardless of how they behaved in Ireland, the Middle East, Central Asia and elsewhere, when launching their enquiry on ‘protecting veterans from the spectre of investigation and re-investigation’ this week.
In a letter to the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) chief, Julian Lewis, the committee’s Conservative chair, wrote: “The Government has a moral duty to defend those who served in the defence of our country whether that was in Northern Ireland, Iraq or Afghanistan. Even veterans of the Falklands campaign in 1982 have told me that they, too, could be targeted.
“It simply cannot be right that veterans, who were the subject of investigations at the time of the events in question and subsequently cleared, are now living in fear of re-investigations and the threat of prosecutions.”
The committee was reacting to the omission of a proposed ‘Statue of Limitations’ from the NIO’s recently published consultation on addressing the past.
The British defence committee’s decision to weigh in on the legacy issue follows the British veterans’ minister, Tobias Ellwood’s controversial remarks at the start of the month, when he said: “I served in Northern Ireland, I was on operations, I knocked over a few milk bottles when I was there, to put it lightly. I don’t want somebody knocking on my door.”
Mr. Ellwood served with the British Army’s Royal Green Jackets in Ireland in the 1990s, a regiment that had been deployed on the streets of Derry during Bloody Sunday.