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

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.
*       The Committee welcomes the Government's proactive stance on ensuring that Service Complaints Panels comply with a recent judgment of the European Court of Human Rights.  However, the Committee considers that there is still a risk that such a Panel may be convened in a way that will contravene this article and will continue to monitor this issue.
*       The Committee welcomes the annual report to Parliament on the Armed Forces covenant which will be required by the Bill.
*       The Committee notes the issues around treatment of detainees by Armed Forces personnel and the provisions in this Bill intended to enhance the structural independence of the service police and the independence and effectiveness of investigators.  The Committee does not come to conclusions on these issues in the light of ongoing investigations and court cases.
*       The Committee calls on the Government to remove the exemption of the Armed Forces from the Equalities Act 2010.

Dr Hywel Francis MP, the Chair of the Committee, said: "This Bill should be amended to ensure that the judge advocate does not have the power to authorise the multiple search of all premises by service police.  Also, the Government should remove the exemption of the Armed Forces from the equalities Act 2010.  We believe that this Bill provides an excellent opportunity for Parliament to debate the issue of under-18s in the Armed Forces, and we continue to have some concerns over the arrangements for the discharge of under-18s and the length of their minimum period of service. "

From the JHRC press release, 17 May 2011

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