April 18, 2004


A judgment too far (The Scotsman, 08/04/04)

Two Albanian men who came under fire from British peacekeeping troops in Kosovo in 1999 have won damages from the Ministry of Defence, after a hearing at the High Court in London. A third man was killed in the incident. Speaking in judgment, Mr Justice Elias said: "In this case, the fall from the army’s usual high standards led to tragic consequences for the victims and their families. The Queen’s uniform is not a licence to commit wrongdoing."

The case obviously has great significance for British operations abroad, especially in Iraq. It cannot be denied that British soldiers, even in the most dangerous combat situation, must operate within a framework of law and respect for human rights. But the issue at stake here is that Mr Justice Elias has extended the principle that the British Army must demonstrate a duty of care in all foreign "peacekeeping" operations - operations which can only grow in number in the 21st century. As a result, he ruled that the three Albanians bore no responsibility for the incident, despite the fact that the dead man was firing an AK-47 automatic in defiance of an embargo, or that they refused to stop their vehicle when asked, or that they were approaching a building containing frightened Serbian civilians being guarded from the local Albanian population by the British troops.

British soldiers do not have leave to shoot civilians at will, even in problematic circumstances. However, this ruling seems to identify a situation called "peacekeeping" - hardly a well-defined concept - in which the duty of care imposed on British soldiers precludes them from considering it a combat zone. In other words, soldiers may find their response is strictly limited in law. Thus, Mr Justice Elias stated clearly that the three Albanians shared no responsibility for their injuries - a view many will consider breaks the bounds of common sense.

Breaks the bounds of common sense? How about dives head first into insanity? Maybe the U.S. should retreat before Sadr drops the big one–a class action.

Posted by Peter Burnet at April 18, 2004 11:20 AM

Once Mr. Blair is replaced as PM, Britain will take its place at the head of Old Europe aka the Major League of Appeasement. That's where it belongs, as incidents like this show. Not even the most left-wing nutcase judge in France would decide something so utterly insane like this.

Blair (and Thatcher and Churchill before him) are exceptions to the rule. Justice what's-his-name is the rule in the Old Country.

Posted by: Peter at April 18, 2004 11:29 AM


Posted by: Jeff Guinn at April 18, 2004 3:58 PM

Maybe April Fool's Day is on the 8th in the UK? Either that or somehow I've been placed in bizarro world by mistake.

Posted by: brian at April 18, 2004 4:07 PM


Utter nonsense. Blair is democratically elected, unlike this Judge, and HM Opposition is more pro-America even than Blair.

Yeesh. With friends like you...

Posted by: Brit at April 19, 2004 4:12 AM

Totally nuts. Haven't these turkeys ever heard of Silent Leges Inter Armes? One of the very reasons that war is bad and to be avoided is that normal rules of law do not apply to it. War is not an ambulance chaser's slip-fall case.

Posted by: Lou Gots at April 19, 2004 1:06 PM


Wouldn't the left, who are quite capable of turning to constructionalism when it suits them, argue that you have to have a formal declaration of war for that to apply? Of course, you can't have that lawfully without a Security Council resolution. Gotcha!

Posted by: Peter B at April 19, 2004 4:11 PM

Hi,john kerry
i went you to be the president of america and by
the grace of God almighty you will be
i wish you the best.

Posted by: ikedi eleruson at April 22, 2004 10:00 AM