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UK AG denies telling soldiers not to accord Iraq detainees statutory rights protections

[JURIST] UK Attorney General Lord Peter Goldsmith [official profile] Tuesday denied allegations published in The Independent that he advised Army officials to deny UK detainees in Iraq legal protections [Independent report] guaranteed under the Human Rights Act of 1998 (HRA) [text; JURIST news archive] and instead adopt a "pragmatic" approach adhering to the Geneva Conventions [ICRC materials] when handling detainees. In an interview with BBC Radio 4, Goldsmith characterized the allegations as "ridiculous," but refused to publish his office's advice to the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD).

The judicial panel of the House of Lords [official website] is set to rule later this year on whether the Human Rights Act applies in Iraq or is limited to within Britain's territorial jurisdiction. The government is appealing a December 2005 decision by the Court of Appeal that the Human Rights Act should apply to British soldiers overseas [JURIST report]. Goldsmith has argued that the Act, which incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) [text], does not apply to British forces operating in Iraq because the United Kingdom does not have full control of Iraq and therefore Iraq was not within the United Kingdom's jurisdiction. MOD has previously argued that the HRA was intended to protect European citizens, not Iraqis, and that applying the HRA in a combat zone would harmfully restrict British soldiers. The Press Association has more.

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