Many young men and women willingly go to dangerous places to do their duty for their country. Many are tragically killed or seriously injured trying to do so. This may be accepted as a tragic consequence of war. But what is also expected is that those sending these people to war do their utmost to protect their lives and ensure their safety.
With road side bombs and attacks from hostile groups a daily reality of war in Iraq, the very least that might have been expected is that soldiers brave enough to put themselves in the line of fire were given training and equipment of the highest standard. Unfortunately, many did not. This included Corporal Stephen Allbutt, Private Phillip Hewett and Private Lee Ellis who lost their lives, not simply as a tragic consequence of war, but as an appalling consequence of poor training and inadequate equipment.
Their families went to court claiming that the Ministry of Defence breached their duty to protect the soldiers’ right to life by failing to properly protect them when they were at risk. However, the Ministry of Defence said that because the soldiers were outside of the UK at the time they were killed, they didn’t have this duty to protect them at all.
The Supreme Court said that the Ministry of Defence was wrong; they did have a duty in law to protect soldiers’ lives even when abroad. This meant that, because of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to life), the Ministry of Defence can be held to account for failing to properly protect soldiers who they have sent to war. The soldiers have done their duty, it’s time the government did theirs.