London – A set of Bills proceeding through Parliament this week will – if passed – give free license to abuses and violations of international and domestic law by the government, its agencies and the armed forces in the name of British security, entrenching immunity from accountability.

Yesterday (23rd September), MPs voted by a large margin in favour of the Overseas Operations Bill at its second reading, with only 77 votes in opposition, while today (24th September) the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill is being introduced into Parliament.

The Overseas Operations Bill would effectively protect soldiers and the Ministry of Defence from prosecutions for torture and war crimes carried out by British troops abroad, and minimise the already-scant opportunities for victims’ recourse to justice.

The Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill, meanwhile, would give license to undercover informants recruited by intelligence services to break the law, without limit. Agencies of the government that will be able to authorise such activity include the MI5, police, the National Crime agency, immigration and border officers, and the Ministry of Justice – but also, brazenly, HM Revenue and Customs, the Environment Agency, the Food Standards Agency and the Medicines and Healthcare Regulation Authority.

Muhammad Rabbani, Managing Director of CAGE said:

“Impunity has long been in the norm with regards to British operations overseas and the operations of its intelligence services; now these Bills seek to embed that into law.” 

The Bills will give large swathes of government agencies the right to openly flout the law. It will incentivise creating fictitious crimes to entrap law abiding citizens for the sake of greater funding and resources to agency departments. It remains to be seen whether the judiciary will challenge potential law-breakers at the cost of protecting the public and upholding the rule of law..

These Bills follow the government’s attempts to criminalise “activist lawyers” as well as its moves to scrap the Human Rights Act, and are part of a series of measures to insulate government and its agencies from accountability.

Moazzam Begg, CAGE Outreach Director said:

“MI5 carried out state sanctioned criminal acts during the Troubles in Northern Ireland for 30 years. MI6 was complicit in the rendition and torture of prisoners during two decades of the ‘War on Terror’. The proposed new Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill allows the government to legalise for itself what is criminal for everyone else. It is now truly placing itself above the law and rendering the law meaningless.”



Photo by Phil Hearing on Unsplash

(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)