Joint Human Rights Committee report state that Armed Forces Bill gives opportunity for debate on service of under-18s

The report from the JHRC on the Armed Forces Bill ‘raises a number of significant human rights concerns in connection with the Bill’ and ‘calls on the Government to clarify the arrangements for the discharge of under-18s from the Armed Forces and to amend the service commitment made by  under-18s to bring it in line with the commitment made by recruits of other ages.’

The report from the Joint Human Rights Committee on the Armed Forces Bill ‘raises a number of significant human rights concerns in connection with the Bill’ including:

The Committee calls on the Government to clarify the arrangements for the discharge of under-18s from the Armed Forces and to amend the service commitment made by  nder-18s to bring it in line with the commitment made by recruits of other ages.  The Committee believes that the Bill provides a good opportunity to consider the issue of under-18s serving in the Armed Forces and the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on UK compliance with the UN Optional Protocol on Children in Armed Conflict.

The Report also raises a number of other significant human rights issues:
*       The Government should amend the Bill to make clear that the criminal standard should apply to any factual determinations necessary for the making or varying of Sexual Offences Prevention Orders in relation to Armed Forces personnel serving overseas.Read more

Campaigners welcome new right to leave the armed forces for under-18s

The government has today promised to give teenage soldiers the right to leave the armed forces up until age 18 if they are unhappy. ForcesWatch and other NGOs have been campaigning on this and other issues relating to under-18s in the armed forces as the Arned Forces Bill does through parliament.

 The government has today promised to give teenage soldiers the right to leave the armed forces up until age 18 if they are unhappy.

This announcement has been welcomed by ForcesWatch, a network concerned with ethical issues involving the armed forces, and other human rights groups. ForcesWatch said they would be watching closely as the details are published to ensure that the law is changed in both letter and spirit. 

Currently, people joining the forces at 16 or 17 have no right to discharge (after the first six months) until turning 22 but must rely on the discretion of commanding officers to get a discharge.

Today the Minister for Defence Personnel, Andrew Robothan MP wrote in a statement to the Armed Forces Bill Committee, “Following a review of discharge policy I am pleased to announce that, for those under the age of 18, the ability to be discharged will in future be a right up to the age of 18, subject to an appropriate period of consideration or cooling off.”

The UK is the only country in Europe to routinely recruit people aged under 18 into the armed forces.… Read more

Court martial raises fears over forces personnel’s right to conscience

A medic in the Royal Navy, who is facing court martial, will argue in court tomorrow that he has a legal defence. Michael Lyons has been charged with “wilful disobedience” because he asked not to participate in rifle training last September after having applied for conscientious objector status.

A medic in the Royal Navy, who is facing court martial, will argue in court tomorrow that he has a legal defence.

Michael Lyons has been charged with “wilful disobedience” because he asked not to participate in rifle training last September after having applied for conscientious objector status.

Lyons could face up to ten years’ imprisonment if convicted.

Michael Lyons’ lawyer will argue that because Mr Lyons had already declared a conscientious objection at the time of the incident, the command for him to participate in rifle training was unlawful. Furthermore, the court martial proceedings were put in place while the process of establishing whether Mr Lyons could be discharged as a conscientious objection was ongoing.

Mr Lyons’ defence are also concerned that there could be a perception that the judge in this case is not impartial. In a previous hearing the judge was asked to recuse himself from the case because he acted as Senior Prosecutor for the RAF in the case of Mohisin Khan in 2004.… Read more

British sailor denied right to conscientious objection as world marks CO Day

Only a few days after International Conscientious Objectors’ Day on Sunday (15 May), a member of the Royal Navy with moral objections to the war in Afghanistan will be tried for ‘wilful disobedience’.

British sailor denied right to conscientious objection as world marks CO Day

A British NGO has said that members of the UK armed forces are still denied full rights to conscientious objection.

Forces Watch pointed out that only a few days after International Conscientious Objectors’ Day on Sunday (15 May), a member of the Royal Navy with moral objections to the war in Afghanistan will be tried for ‘wilful disobedience’.

Michael Lyons, a naval medic, will face a court-martial in Portsmouth on Friday 20 May. He asked not to participate in rifle training last September after having applied for conscientious objector status. This application was turned down and was also rejected by the Advisory Committee on Conscientious Objection (ACCO) in December.

Michael’s objection was based on medical ethics, which led him to believe that injured people should be treated equally whatever their nationality. He also objects to the level of civilian casualties in Afghanistan. But ACCO told him his objection was “political” rather than “moral”.

Emma Sangster, Co-ordinator of Forces Watch, said:

“95 years ago, the UK became the first country in the world to formally recognise the right to conscientious objection in law.… Read more