UK House of Lords backs pardons for WWI soldiers executed for desertion

UK House of Lords backs pardons for WWI soldiers executed for desertion

[JURIST] Members of Britain's House of Lords [official website] Thursday voiced their support for an amendment [JURIST report] to the Armed Forces Bill [legislative materials] that would pardon 306 World War I soldiers who were executed [backgrounder] for various offenses including cowardice, sleeping while on duty, striking a superior officer, disobedience and desertion. The bill, with the pardons amendment, passed through committee Thursday and if the bill receives final approval, a formal pardon would be placed in the court martial files of the men. Relatives of the executed soldiers have been seeking pardons since 1990 when Britain's Public Record Office [official website] declassified the records.

The families have argued that the soldiers had suffered from shell-shock [BBC backgrounder], a diagnosis not recognized at the time, and should not have been sent back into the trenches. Critics of the amendment have argued, however, that the pardons would effectively rewrite history [BBC backgrounder]. AFP has more.