Quakers influence Overseas Operations Bill

Quakers and other campaigners have persuaded members of the House of Lords to vote for a key change to the Overseas Operations Bill.

An amendment for which they campaigned passed, 333 votes for to 228 against.

The bill is designed to tackle so-called 'vexatious claims' against armed forces personnel and veterans. But Quakers in Britain believe it will result in injustice for both personnel and the survivors of war crimes.

Quakers in Britain and Quaker Concern for the Abolition of Torture (Q-CAT) have worked with Freedom From Torture, Liberty, Reprieve and other organisations to lobby against the proposals in the bill. They originally campaigned for wide-scale changes to the legislation, but in the later parliamentary stages they have had to focus on securing one key amendment.

One of Quakers' key concerns was that the bill would introduce a 'presumption against prosecution' after five years for alleged crimes committed by armed forces personnel. That would mean that crimes including genocide and torture would not be prosecuted if they came to light after five years or if the investigation took longer.

The amendment ensures that the presumption against prosecution does not apply to war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide or torture. It was voted through by Peers during the Lords Report Stage.

The bill will now return to the House of Commons so that MPs can consider the Lords' changes. Quakers and other members of the public are urged to write to their MP, asking them to support the Lords' amendment on torture.

More information is available on Freedom From Torture's website

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