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Proposed UK bill could limit accountability for int’l crimes

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London:  The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urged UK legislators to amend the proposed new Overseas Operations Bill, saying that it could lead to shielding its military personnel operating abroad from due accountability for acts of torture or other serious international crimes.

“As currently drafted, the Bill would make it substantially less likely that UK service members on overseas operations would be held accountable for serious human rights violations amounting to international crimes,” Bachelet said in a statement on Monday.

The Bill, now reaching its final stages in the legislative process, will shortly be debated again by the House of Lords, the UK’s upper chamber, where amendments may still be made, Xinhua news agency reports.

According to explanatory notes on the website of the UK Parliament, the purpose of the Bill is “to provide greater certainty for Service personnel and veterans in relation to claims and potential prosecution for historical events that occurred in the complex environment of armed conflict overseas”.

Citing Article 2 of the UN Convention against Torture, Bachelet stressed that no exceptional circumstances should be invoked as a justification of torture, and the Bill risks undermining the country’s obligations in a number of ways, and could lead to serious crimes not being adequately addressed.

“I urge UK legislators in both Houses of Parliament, and the Government, to take these concerns fully into account when reviewing the Bill, and to ensure that the law of the Uk remains entirely unambiguous with regard to accountability for international crimes perpetrated by individuals, no matter when, where or by whom they are committed,” she said.

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