by Rishi Gulati and Matthew Nelson*
The decision of the United Kingdom Supreme Court in Iraqi Civilians v. Ministry of Defence (No. 2)  UKSC 25 (“Iraqi Civilians”) demonstrates how public and private international law concepts interact and affect the rights of individuals allegedly subjected to grave breaches of rights to access a remedy before courts of law.
Iraqi Civilians: Background
The claimants, hundreds of Iraqi civilians represented by 14 lead claimants, brought claims under the Human Rights Act 1998 and in tort against the UK Ministry of Defence, for damages arising out of alleged unlawful detention and/or physical maltreatment by British soldiers between 2003 to 2008 in Iraq. After the cessation of the major combat operations in May 2003, the UK became an occupying power and began exercising the powers of the Iraqi Government on a temporary basis.
The Supreme Court’s brief decision, delivered by Justice Sumption, concerned the application of limitations to the claimants’ suits that operated as a matter of Iraqi law. Accepting, as the parties did, that Iraqi law applied in relation to questions of the Ministry’s liability in tort, the claimants were, by operation of Article 232 of the Civil Code of Iraq (the “Civil Code”), barred from commencing their applications (though their rights were not extinguished) by virtue of the operation of limitation periods to claims of this kind. Consequently, the claimants sought to invoke an order of the Coalition authorities, Coalition Provisional Authority Order 17 (the “Order”), that operated to suspend the taking of proceedings in Iraqi courts against the UK Government, such that it conferred state immunity on the UK Government from legal process in Iraqi courts. It is this order, the claimants’ argued, that had the effect of suspending the limitation periods, as envisaged in Article 435 of the Civil Code. Continue reading
UK Officials have decided to drop investigations into almost 60 claims of unlawful killings by UK soldiers who served in Iraq.
The Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), set up in 2010 to examine claims of murder, abuse and torture during the Iraq war, has decided not to proceed in 57 cases, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed. A further case was stopped by the military’s service prosecuting authority.
Conservative MP Richard Benyon said facing such claims constitute “an intolerable burden for people who have served their country well, knowing they’re innocent.”
However, Lt Col Nicholas Mercer, the army’s former chief legal adviser in Iraq, has criticised the crackdown on legal claims against Iraq veterans. He said the claims were not false and raised issues of “very high importance”, including the abuse of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mercer pointed out that the government has paid out £20m for 326 cases. “Anyone who has fought the Ministry of Defence knows they don’t pay out for nothing. So there are 326 substantiated claims at a cost of £20m, and almost no criminal proceedings to accompany it. You have to ask why,” he said.
by Maria della Porta Rodiani (of Globalrightscompliance LLP)
On 22 May 2014, the United Kingdom (‘UK’) National Contact Point (‘NCP’) for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (‘the Guidelines’) rendered its initial assessment (‘IA’) on the issues raised in a complaint submitted by the Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights (‘LPHR’) against G4S, a UK company providing security equipment and services to the Israeli authorities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (‘OPT’).
In November 2013, LPHR had submitted a complaint under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises to the UK NCP, concerning G4S’ provision of equipment and services in the Israeli Separation Barrier (‘the Wall area’) – predominantly within the West Bank including East Jerusalem, to the Erez crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip, and to Israeli Prison Services (IPS) facilities in several locations.
LPHR argued that as a consequence of the 2004 International Court of Justice advisory opinion concluding that the Wall was built in breach of international humanitarian and human rights law, G4S’ facilities and operations in these areas are considered to be in breach of international human rights, and part of an unlawful regime. Thus, LPHR alleged that G4S’ activities may (1) be generally involved with human rights abuses, (2) cause or contribute to them, or (3) be linked to them by a business relationship. In addition, LPHR argued that G4S had not carried out appropriate human rights due diligence. Continue reading