Soldiers' human rights 'breached by faulty equipment'

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The Independent Online

Sending British soldiers out on patrol or into battle with defective equipment could amount to a breach of their human rights, a High Court judge ruled today.

The decision marked a groundbreaking legal defeat for Defence Secretary Des Browne and potentially has important implications for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Defence Secretary suffered yet another defeat when the judge rejected his bid to ban coroners from using phrases such as "serious failure" - implying criticism of the Ministry of Defence and its agents - in verdicts on soldiers who have died on active service.

In the same judgment, the judge said that in such cases families should be entitled to legal aid and as full access as possible to military documents put before inquest hearings.

MoD lawyers had argued that it was "impossible to afford to soldiers who were on active service outside their bases the benefits of the Human Rights Act".

But Mr Justice Collins, sitting at the High Court in London, ruled that British servicemen and women were entitled to some measure of legal protection "wherever they may be" - possibly right on to the battlefield.

The judge granted the Ministry of Defence permission to appeal against his ruling.