» Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Soldier arrests

Put to the PMOS that the military were "furious" about the Attorney General’s decision to try the British soldiers in the International Criminal Court (ICC), and what were we saying about the reasons, the PMOS said that this was being pursued by the Army prosecuting authority who had decided to take action with this case. It had been done under military law, not civil law, and it had nothing to do with the ICC, and therefore it was being done under exactly the same procedures which had been laid down for fifty years. The PMOS reiterated that it would be wrong to say this had been driven by the Attorney General.

Asked why this was not being handled in the "normal" way, and why was it going to the ICC, the PMOS said that was exactly his point, as it was being dealt with in the "normal" way. The process of military law was covered by the same legislation, but it had nothing to do with the ICC. This case would not be heard in The Hague, but rather it would be handled in exactly the same way others had done for the past fifty years. The PMOS said it was an easy connection to make, but it was the wrong one between this process and the ICC process. In terms, therefore of the military being "furious", the PMOS said he would gently like to suggest that was not the case, since it was precisely a military, not civil or political process that was being worked out.

Asked was there not an element that the soldiers were being charged with war crimes, the PMOS said it would be entirely wrong for him to comment in any way on the nature of the charges. He repeated it was a military process that was handling this and it should be allowed to proceed in the same way that they handled other legal cases.

Asked if it was the case that British soldiers under previous laws could not be charged as war criminals, the PMOS said his understanding was that this was under exactly the same law as other military proceedings.
At this point, there was clarification that the soldiers were not being charged with war crimes, but rather manslaughter and other charges.

Asked why they were not being dealt with under normal proceedings, and had the "Government lawyers" decided this was the way it should be done the PMOS said it was not Government lawyers but instead it was the Army prosecuting authority, and not a civil or political process.

Put to the PMOS that "clearly" something "different" was happening, and could it be cleared up, the PMOS said that something different was not happening. It was precisely because it was not different that was the point, and it was a military process not a civil one.

Put to the PMOS that there were new laws that the military were applying, the PMOS said: no. The PMOS repeated that it was incorporated in the existing process that had been around for fifty years.

Asked for clarification regarding the ICC involvement that required changes to the law to improve their possible focus on some point in the future, the PMOS replied that these people would be tried in a British court martial under British military law. It would be entirely wrong for us to interfere in any way in that process.

Asked if "everyone had got the wrong end of the stick" and all the newspapers were all mistaken, the PMOS said the journalist should check the procedure and check with the MOD.

Asked what the danger would be if they proceeded under the old system of justice instead of disciplinary, the PMOS said the journalist was confusing two things, namely disciplinary procedure with an Army legal procedure. This was the latter, where decisions to prosecute were taken by the independent Army prosecution authority under the general supervision of the Attorney General. That was different from the discipline procedure, as it was not a legal procedure in that sense.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news

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