UK: Response to Surrey Police Deepcut investigation report
'It is also time to put an end to the practice of recruiting under-18s. The UK is the country with the lowest deployment age in Europe and Surrey Police's report itself has highlighted the fact that the army continues to recruit vulnerable young people.'
In recent years, Amnesty International has received serious allegations regarding some of the deaths of UK Armed Forces personnel in non-combat circumstances.
The organisation is concerned at the circumstances surrounding many of these fatalities, some of which continue to be disputed. Some of these allegations refer to possible unlawful killings, either intentional or as a result of negligence, through, for example:
- the misuse of lethal weapons;
- deaths during strenuous training exercises; and
- self-inflicted deaths, at times following bullying and other ill-treatment, including sexual harassment by other soldiers and/or by superiors.
Amnesty International has received reports that, in a number of cases, the UK authorities have failed to take adequate measures to ensure prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations into these deaths and to address the disputed circumstances in which they have been said to have taken place.
The Royal Military Police's Special Investigation Branch (SIB) conducted the original investigations into all four Deepcut deaths. Following its own internal inquiries, the army originally classified all four deaths as 'intentional and self-inflicted'. However, two of the three inquests so far held in these deaths returned 'open' verdicts; while a verdict of suicide was returned by the inquest in the remaining one.
A number of the bereaved families have reported concerns to Amnesty International about the initial investigations into the deaths of their relatives conducted by the SIB, alleging that they were severely flawed. As a result, some families have called for those responsible for the mishandling of such investigations to be brought to book.
Amnesty International has previously criticised closed-door investigations which have left relatives with the impression that the Armed Forces have closed ranks against them and helped undermine public confidence in the UK Armed Forces and the Ministry of Defence.