Page last updated at 09:35 GMT, Thursday, 16 July 2009 10:35 UK

Appeal over military rights case

Private Jason Smith
Pte Jason Smith died from heatstroke in Iraq

The UK Government is to appeal against a court ruling which said British troops must be protected by the Human Rights Act.

In May, the Court of Appeal upheld a decision that the Act applied to all UK troops, even on the battlefield.

The case related to Pte Jason Smith, from Hawick in the Scottish Borders, who died from heatstroke in Iraq six years ago.

The government confirmed it would appeal to the House of Lords.

In a Commons written statement, Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said the case raised issues of "potentially very wide legal significance".

He said: "I have decided that the right course would be to appeal to the House of Lords in order to obtain as much clarity as possible on the legal framework applying to operations overseas."

New inquest

Mr Ainsworth said the Ministry of Defence accepted there were "limited circumstances" when armed forces personnel came within the UK's jurisdiction for the purposes of the European Convention on Human Rights when deployed overseas.

"These include the circumstances of Private Jason Smith's death, where Private Smith was at all times within a British army camp and British army hospital, and no third party nationals were involved in his death," he said.

He added it had also already been agreed that a new inquest into the cause of 32-year-old Pte Smith's death should be held, which will be fully compliant with the convention.

"Jason Smith's death remains the source of great regret and the MoD will continue to offer its whole-hearted support to the coronial process and every possible sympathy and attention to (his mother) Mrs Smith," Mr Ainsworth said.

But he said the case raised concerns about the extent to which actions under the Human Rights Act could be brought in cases involving military personnel deployed on overseas operations.



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