The Lords on the Extraterritorial Application of the Human Rights Act

The House of Lords today rejected claims by families of people killed in Iraq that European human rights law applied to the conduct of British troops in Iraq. The case is Al-Skeini and others v. Secretary of State for Defence.

They said that such laws only applied to people held in custody by British troops, refusing to extend that protection to those injured or killed by such soldiers on the streets of Iraq.

This was a test case of six Iraqis killed by British troops in southern Iraq in separate incidents in 2003. The case was brought by the families of the victims.

The Lords did say – 4/1 – that human rights law applies in the case of an Iraqi civilian who died in UK custody after alleged torture, and that Whitehall must conduct an independent investigation into the death of Baha Mousa, who died after sustaining 93 separate injuries in Basra in 2003.

In a four-to-one verdict, the lords ruled that the UK’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights applied to the conduct of British troops in Iraq.

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