A submarine commander turned unionist politician has welcomed the intervention of one of the US military’s leading figures over the prosecution of Troubles veterans.
Steve Aiken, a former commander of a nuclear-powered submarine who was first elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly for the UUP back in 2016, said there is a “definite concern” for the UK’s front line troops over the pursuit of veterans through the courts.
He was speaking after the former four-star general and CIA director David Petraeus warned that Britain’s fighting capabilities could be “greatly diminished” if human rights laws cannot be balanced against the law of warfare.
“I fear that an overly expansive interpretation of the European Convention of Human Rights could place the United Kingdom in an untenable position, where British forces have to fight under a different legal framework than that of United States’ forces, potentially limiting the use of force by British armed forces engaged in combat, targeting activities, and detention operations,” General Petraeus said.
He told an event for the Policy Exchange think tank in Westminster that the historic Northern Ireland investigations were “relentless and seemingly unending”.
South Antrim MLA Mr Aiken agreed, saying: “General Petraeus has very rightly pointed out some of the concerns of the United States working with its closest and most effective ally.
“I have no doubt whatsoever that the senior leadership of the British armed forces are making it very clear to the prime minister that this continued attack on the integrity of members of the British armed forces - both now and in the past - is undermining our operational capability, and our ability to be a force for good in the world.”
He continued: “It is a significant intervention. He is echoing publicly what is being said privately at the most senior levels of the British and American military establishment.
“There is a definite concern for our troops on the front line now.”
He added: “It seems to me ridiculous that members of our armed forces are being held to account by laws and regulations that are for a civilian setting, rather than those of the operational environment.”