Sir Keir Starmer sacks Labour MP Nadia Whittome for voting against government free pass for torture
Sir Keir Starmer sacked a Labour MP for voting against the government’s plans to exempt UK troops from prosecution for war crimes and torture.
When a bemused Peston asked whether she “expected to be asked to resign,” the MP struggled to respond, only saying: “Well, um…”
The ITV political host followed: “The whip was that you should all abstain, but you voted with Jeremy Corbyn against this bill.”
Ms Whittome explained: “There was a one-line whip to abstain. I thought the bill was a matter of conscience.
“I understand why colleagues came to a different conclusion and thought they could amend it at committee stage. That is reasonable.
Nadia Whittome, parliament’s youngest MP, confirmed in a statement that she had been “stood down” from her role as a parliamentary private secretary after opposing the Overseas Operations Bill.
Two other MPs, Beth Winter and Olivia Blake, also voluntarily stood down from similar roles to vote against the legislation, which Amnesty International says will give war criminals “a free pass”.
Labour Civil War
The former party leader along with 17 other Labour MPs all voted against the Government’s Overseas Operations Bill, despite being told to abstain. Three Labour frontbenchers joined Mr Corbyn in defying Sir Keir. The Bill would make exemptions from the European Convention on Human Rights in relation to Armed Forces personnel.
Labour MPs were instructed to abstain on the vote, neither giving their support for or against the Bill.
Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey had told MPs during a parliamentary debate today that current Government legislation relating to British troops serving overseas “creates the risk that the very gravest crimes including torture and other war crimes go unpunished”.
Speaking about the Overseas Operations Bill, he added the legislation “calls into question Britain’s proud commitment to the Geneva Convention” and “our moral authority”.
The new legislation has been slammed by human rights groups and some senior armed forces figures, including General Sir Nicholas Parker Commander in Chief, Land Forces 2010-2012. He argued that the bill would risk the UK being seen as holding itself to “double standards”.
This bill is not about protecting troops but taking away their rights
Bell Ribeiro-Addy writes: Clearly, this bill is not really about protecting veterans, which is why it has no support from senior legal military figures. Judge Advocate General Jeff Blackett – Britain’s most senior military judge, who was not even consulted before this legislation was published – has called on the Defence Secretary to “think again” about these “ill-conceived” proposals.
The government claims that this is about patriotism and standing up for our military personnel, but its bill would actually restrict the time in which soldiers can make claims against the Ministry of Defence. How exactly does this support troops who face conditions such as PTSD years later? If this government really cared about UK veterans, it would do something to address the plight of the thousands of veterans left to sleep rough on the streets or failed by inadequate mental health services.
The real thrust of this bill is twofold. Firstly, to shield the MoD and government from being held to account for their foreign adventures. Secondly, perhaps the key strand of the Dominic Cummings-Boris Johnson project, to concentrate power in the hands of the executive. Enabling the Attorney General to decide whether accusations merit prosecution is putting what should be an independent prosecutorial decision in the hands of a political appointee. In other words, allowing the government to mark their own homework.
Sir Keir Starmer made ten pledges that he would stand by as Labour Leader if elected pledge No. 4…
4. Promote peace and human rights
Sir Keir Starmer made ten pledges if he was to be elected, this bill breaks Pledge No. 4. “Promote peace and human rights No more illegal wars. Introduce a Prevention of Military Intervention Act and put human rights at the heart of foreign policy. Review all UK arms sales and make us a force for international peace and justice.”
“No more illegal wars. Introduce a Prevention of Military Intervention Act and put human rights at the heart of foreign policy. Review all UK arms sales and make us a force for international peace and justice.“
In current form, Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill effectively decriminalises torture, violates essential rule of law principles such as judicial and prosecutorial independence, and defies international human rights law.
It would mean soldiers cannot be prosecuted for war crimes if five years have passed since the alleged date of the incident. Given the time scale involved with reporting most war crimes, this would provide British soldiers with de facto immunity for acts of torture and other breaches of the Geneva Convention.
Julian Perreira a UK veteran states: Many still serving in the ranks won’t realise the battle they’ll have on their hands if they ever need to take on the government if they ever get injured during an operational tour, diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or even worse for their loved ones, dead – through any MoD negligence.
Lots of former UK Armed Forces personnel and veterans have unfortunately resorted to suicide because of how badly they’re being treated by Veterans UK, when it comes to seeking damages from the MoD.
Any decent employer should have the health and wellbeing of its employees, first and foremost.
More importantly, all employers are legally responsible for keeping its people safe.
We know the risks when we choose to wear the country’s uniform, but when it comes to injuries sustained through MoD negligence or injuries caused whilst serving, which then end your career and means you having to suffer with lifelong suffering or pain, the Ministry of Defence should be held to account, just like any other employer.
Why should the MoD have any such dispensation like they’re proposing in this bill?
Even under the current law, it is a real struggle to receive the help, compensation and support that you deserve.
This proposed bill, just gives the MoD the legislation to wipe its hands clean after military personnel have left service.
I’d highly suggest that you read the following briefing note from The Centre For Military Justice