The UK Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that British troops deployed abroad are not protected by the Human Rights Act outside of military bases, in R(Smith) v. Secretary of State for Defence. The Court dismissed claims that British soldiers on the battlefield should be protected by the Human Rights Act 1998, but ruled that the Ministry of Defence must be held to account more rigorously at military inquests.
Lord Phillips, the president, said it was impracticable to secure the principle of the right to life for troops “in active service abroad”. Matters “relating to the conduct of armed hostilities” were “essentially non-justiciable”, added Lord Collins. That principle, the court decided by a six to three majority, applied only when soldiers were on their base, and not when they stepped outside on patrol or on operations.
However this issue will ultimately be decided by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which is hearing a separate case brought by alleged Iraqi victims of British military force.
The case was brought by Catherine Smith, whose son, Jason, 21, a private in the Territorial Army, died of heatstroke on a base in southern Iraq in August 2003. She argued the inquest should have investigated the circumstances in which he died, and why he died, not just how.
The guardian newspaper has the full text of the judgment – here – http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2010/jun/30/smith-judgment-human-rights-jurisdiction