There are a wide variety of Defence related stories in today’s media, including Deepcut, Syria, Yemen and IHAT.
The Independent has claimed that there was a widespread culture of 'bullying, sexual assaults and rape’ at Deepcut barracks in 1995, the year that Private Cheryl James was found dead. The article goes on to say that almost 60 allegations of such incidents were made to Surrey Police by former recruits but have hitherto escaped public attention. The piece adds that alongside Private James, three other recruits were found dead at the barracks between 1995 and 2002 and the deaths are only now "coming under scrutiny". The story references the Blake Review, conducted into the four deaths and published in 2006, but comments from Cheryl James’ father say the review failed to take into account all the evidence.
An MOD Spokesperson said:
Our thoughts remain with the family and friends of Private Cheryl James. The inquest will now be a matter for the coroner, but we will of course continue to cooperate with and provide support to the coroner where needed.
Stories in the Times, the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph all report that British military personnel are 'assisting the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen' that has been criticised for killing thousands of civilians. The papers report that the Saudi foreign minister and the MOD have confirmed that British military advisers are stationed in control centres in Saudi Arabia.
An MOD Spokesperson said:
UK military personnel are not directly involved in Saudi-led Coalition operations, we are offering Saudi Arabia advice and training on best practice targeting techniques to help ensure continued compliance with International Humanitarian Law. We support Saudi forces through longstanding, pre-existing arrangements and will consider any new requests.
The Daily Telegraph reports that Conservative MPs Sir Nicholas Soames and Richard Drax, both former soldiers, have called for David Cameron to intervene to stop the disgraceful 'hounding' of British troops by lawyers seeking compensation for alleged abuses during the Iraq War. Both Mr Soames and Mr Drax, in a letter to the paper, say that many of the allegations are 'spurious or totally fabricated, motivated only by the hope of financial gain'. They add that 'a genuine attempt to right historic wrongs has become a compensation industry, benefiting only the legal profession’.
Meanwhile, the Daily Mail reports on comments made by Bethany Shiner, of Public Interest Lawyers, who says law firms are becoming the ‘scapegoats’ in the wider issue of allegations of abuse of Iraqi civilians at the hands of British soldiers. Speaking to BBC Daily Politics, Ms Shiner said she was ‘very concerned’ about how the focus had shifted to the lawyers.
An MOD spokesperson said:
There is a legal requirement to investigate allegations of wrongdoing by UK Forces, which are held to the highest standards wherever in the world they may be. The IHAT was established to investigate allegations arising from operations in Iraq, and the UK Courts have ruled that it is sufficiently independent and effective.
We are extremely concerned at reports about people being solicited by British lawyers to make allegations which can often be fabricated. We are grateful to the Solicitors Regulation Authority for their careful consideration of the concerns we raised about the provision of evidence to the Al-Sweady Inquiry. The Government is considering measures to reduce the burden on the Armed Forces of litigation which is without merit.
The Daily Mail reports that a translator who risked life for UK troops - known as 'Ahmed' - is to be 'kicked out of the UK and sent back to the Taliban,. The 31-year-old, who fled after receiving death threats, faces deportation after a judge ruled it was safe for him to go back and rejected his asylum claim. The piece adds that the MOD has said Ahmed had not applied for asylum under the intimidation scheme. The Daily Mail also includes a story about another interpreter, 23 year old Fazel Dijilane, who was injured by a bomb while working for the the British Army in Afghanistan and who is now sleeping rough in the Calais ‘jungle’.
You can read more about the Government’s policy on Afghan Interpreters here.
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