Combat immunity does not extend beyond 'actual or imminent armed conflict'

Damages claims brought by British soldiers and their families against the Ministry of Defence for failures in Iraq can go ahead, the Supreme Court ruled this morning.

The MoD applied to strike out the claims for reasons including combat immunity, the scope of Article 2 of the ECHR (right to life) and jurisdiction.

Giving the leading judgment, Lord Hope said the doctrine of combat immunity should be "narrowly construed" and not "extended from actual or imminent armed conflict" to failures at an earlier stage.

"At the stage when men are being trained, whether pre-deployment or in theatre, or decisions are being made about the fitting of equipment to tanks or other fighting vehicles, there is time to think things through, to plan and to exercise judgment. "These activities are sufficiently far removed from the pressures and risks of active operations against the enemy for it to not to be unreasonable to expect a duty of care to be exercised, so long as the standard of care that is imposed has regard to the nature of these activities and to their circumstances."

Source: Solicitors Journal

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