International Law

ECHR Opinions on British Military Activities in Iraq

By Wells Bennett
Friday, July 8, 2011, 2:46 PM

The European Court of Human Rights ("ECHR") yesterday released two judgments regarding the British military's alleged violation, in Iraq, of international human rights law.

In the first case, Al-Skeini and Others v. the United Kingdom, the Court concluded that the United Kingdom had violated Article 2 of  the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms ("the Convention") - by failing to perform an adequate investigation into the deaths of five Iraqi civilians who were killed in 2003, during British military operations in Basrah City.  The second judgment, Al-Jedda v. United Kingdom, likewise held that, by detaining the Applicant from 2004-2007 at a British-run facility in Basrah City, the British military had violated the Applicant's right to liberty under Article 5 of the Convention.

The cases raise issues of interest to Lawfare's readership, and not just because one of them--Al-Jedda--arises from military detention.  For example, in Al-Skeini, the Court appears to have dismissed the U.K. Government's claim that, because the alleged deaths occurred in Basrah City, they also fell outside the United Kingdom's jurisdiction.  The Al-Jedda judgment also evidently rejected another defense, founded upon the British army's participation in multi-national military activities authorized by the United Nations Security Council.  Before the ECHR, the United Kingdom had argued that under such circumstances, the conduct of British troops could not be attributed to the United Kingdom.

We will post a more extensive summary and comments in the coming days.