Families of dead British soldiers begin legal challenge

Mon Feb 18, 2013 1:17pm EST
 

By Costas Pitas

LONDON (Reuters) - Relatives of British soldiers killed in Iraq began a legal challenge against their government on Monday, saying they could have survived had the army provided them with better equipment to protect themselves.

The families of three soldiers killed by road-side bombs while patrolling in armored vehicles between 2005 and 2007 believe their deaths represented a breach of their right to life under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Britain's defense ministry disagrees, saying soldiers who died in combat in Iraq did not fall under the ECHR provision.

On Monday, Britain's Supreme Court heard arguments on behalf of the relatives in the first step in their efforts to win the right to sue Britain's defense ministry over the case.

Cases like this are watched closely in Britain and the United States, which led the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and the issue of military deaths remains a sensitive issue because many people opposed military action against Iraq.

If the relatives succeed, the case could see the right to life enshrined in legislation extended to all British soldiers in combat and potentially open the way to compensation claims.

The High Court ruled in June 2011 that the deceased soldiers did not fall within British jurisdiction when they were killed. Other court rulings said that British jurisdiction only applied while combatants were within military camps.

The families of three other soldiers killed in Iraq are also challenging the defense ministry at the Supreme Court in a related case. They argue their deaths during a 2003 incident caused by friendly fire could have been avoided had adequate training and technology been provided.

(Editing by Pravin Char)