London: British troops are not protected by
human rights laws on the battlefield, the Supreme Court in
London ruled on Wednesday, after the government argued that such
protection could hamper military decision-making.
Six of the nine justices overturned rulings by the High
Court and Court of Appeal in the case of a British soldier who
died in Iraq in 2003 of a cardiac arrest after suffering from
the extreme heat.
A 2006 inquest into Private Jason Smith`s death blamed a
"serious failure" by the army to recognise how the heat was
affecting the 32-year-old, and his family launched a legal
action that became a test case of soldiers` rights.
While the Ministry of Defence conceded that soldiers on
British military bases or hospitals were protected by the
Human Rights Act, their lawyers argued it was impractical to
extend such protection to battlefield situations.
"The imposition of some form of legal duty of care would
create a major and disproportionate risk that military
decision-making would be made more cumbersome and would be
skewed in the light of it," their lawyer James Eadie
had argued at the Supreme Court in March.
Although the ministry lost its argument at the High Court
and then the Court of Appeal, those rulings were overturned at
the Supreme Court today.