Amid nonsense about human rights, a key friend of the UK — General Petraeus — puts forward another view

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

The discourse on human rights law and the United Kingdom’s relationship to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is so one-sided that critics of the ECHR are barely heard.

Since Brexit, such sceptical thinking has come under sustained attack and there has been widespread publicity for the supposed threat that Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union poses to the protection of rights.

While the EU and ECHR are separate, membership of the EU requires support for ECHR, hence the hyped up concern.

In fact, a range of serious voices from Theresa May and some of her ministers to the journalist and military expect Max Hastings have expressed concern that ECHR is badly out of date in the terrorist age because it was drafted for a different time to help contain threats from tyrannical regimes.

Unionists are almost silent on this debate, and so the grievance mongering on the campuses and within nationalist Ireland, including from senior Irish politicians, about Britain’s threat to the rights of Irish people goes largely unchallenged.

Now, amidst this nonsense, the ex US army chief General David Petraeus has said that pursuing British veterans through the courts could threaten the UK’s military alliance Petraeus said Britain’s military could be “greatly diminished” if human rights laws cannot be balanced against the law of warfare.

“The very special relationship between our two militaries, which has been built over decades of serving shoulder-to-shoulder in the hardest tests of battle, could be put at risk by the present situation,” he said.

He said an “expansive interpretation” of ECHR could limit UK forces’ combat ability because they operate under different laws.

Gen Petraeus said that the historic Northern Ireland investigations were “seemingly unending”. How right he is.

What a breakthrough to have such a figure from Britain’s key ally say such things.

Now will London face down nationalist Ireland and cite figures such as Gen Petraeus, and develop a new legacy approach to an IRA that is vindictive on the past?