Former defence secretary Ben Wallace has condemned the “lunacy” of human rights laws that prevent Britain from carrying out raids abroad to capture terrorist suspects.
Speaking for the first time since he quit his Cabinet role, he said the UK was being forced to kill “enemies of Britain” – or leave them to continue plotting.
He told a national newspaper: “When we have a threat to the UK, this lunacy of being unable to render people across borders or arrest people in countries whose police forces are unacceptable, means that we are more often than not forced into taking lethal action than actually raiding and detaining.”
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Under international law, missions that could result in the rendition of a suspect – meaning their extrajudicial transfer from one country to another – are not permitted, explained Wallace. He said in his time as defence secretary, he “came across plots” and “took action”, but would have liked to have had more options.
“There are a number of individuals who pose an imminent threat to the UK, who I would prefer to have captured, rather than deal with by a strike,” Mr Wallace said. “If there was an Isis plot in some Central African country for example, under international law we have the right to take action with or without permission from the host nation, but we couldn’t capture the bad guys – we could only kill them.”
He also told The Telegraph: “I’m not going so far as saying we should scrap the ECHR (European Court of Human Rights), but unless the international human rights bandwagon recognises the world we live in today is transnational, and technology has enabled like never before, far from guarding people’s rights, we’ll drive people to take more extreme measures.
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“If you care about human rights, then you need to update yourself, because otherwise the option is, they’re dead. Surely you want them to have a trial in front of an independent judiciary and jury?”
He said the UK would not have been able to carry out a raid like the one in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden. Wallace said: “If we had found Osama bin Laden, we could not have done what the Americans did. We could not have done that type of raid.
“We did have the right to deal with an imminent threat. We could have thrown a tomahawk missile. If we’d done the American model, where they flew in by heli, I would currently be told you can’t do that, because we can’t render them out of the country.”
Wallace announced in July that he would resign from the role of Defence Secretary. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak replaced him with Grant Shapps last month.
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