British soldiers are now quietly celebrating the downfall of the “Human Rights” lawyer who made his reputation suing the Ministry of Defense over allegations of war crimes and other brutality.
Phil Shiner managed to give “ambulance chasing” a bad name. He accused blameless British troops of war crimes and was behind most of the 3,389 complaints submitted to the Iraq Historic Allegations Team. That inquiry has cost almost $40 Million and has interviewed more than 600 military personnel – has failed to implicate a single one in even one war crime. It did, however, establish that most of the allegations made against them were “deliberate and calculated lies” spread for malicious reasons.
Still, settling the cases concluded so far for breaches of the Human Rights Act has cost the British taxpayer more than $30 Million, and Shiner’s law firm also earned another $4.5 Million in fees from the state-funded ‘Legal Aid’ scheme.
Shiner’s fall, however, was predicated by the discovery that some of these claimaints were not innocent civilians at all, but members of the ‘Jaish al-Mahdi’ insurgency group, and their lawyers had not only known this – and tried to conceal the fact by shredding the evidence.
After an investigation by the Solicitors Regulation Authority in England, Shiner was charged with 24 counts of professional misconduct. Faced with the prospect of the hearing being held in public, Shiner admitted at least partial guilt in 18 of the charges. He admitted that he acted without integrity when he accused troops of war crimes, and acknowledged that he should be disbarred.
The real harm here, however, is not the financial cost, or even the personal toll these groundless accusations have taken on the soldiers falsely accused. Shiner was – whether wittingly or otherwise – an important asset to ISIS and to Islamist extremism in general.
Western democracies are faced with the threat posed by Islamist extremism; a multi-headed hydra that combines extreme barbarity on the ground with a sophisticated online public relations operation to recruit more gullible ‘volunteers’ in the name of religion. In that situation, the lies that Shiner and other left-wing lawyers were happy to propagate in the name of ‘human rights’ were a PR coup to the terrorists. False accusations that British troops committed war crimes and atrocities have been exploited for propaganda and recruitment purposes.
While perfectly legal, citing such international instruments as the UN Convention against Torture and the European Convention on Human Rights, such perversions of our justice system are not new, it is a particularly insidious manifestation of hybrid warfare, called “lawfare”.
A white collar guerrilla tactic, lawfare is the use (or abuse) of the legal system to undermine an enemy’s legitimacy or subvert their political support, particularly in the international arena.
Shiner’s admission that he acted “without integrity” came on the same day as the Head of the UK’s MI6 stated they had successfully disrupted at least twelve terrorist plots in the last three years, but warned that country was facing an ongoing terrorism threat that was “unprecedented” and made special reference to this ‘hybrid warfare’ risk.
These two news stories are not entirely unrelated. They both relate to the same threat to our security.
In an attempt to deal with todays ‘non-State combatants’ within a legal framework originally designed for Nuremberg in 1945, principles of domestic criminal law have been applied to armed conflict, so the same legal principles as have failed to maintain law and order in the face of Organized Crime are expected to apply on the battlefield.
Struggling to prevent Iraq collapsing into a complete and total bloodbath was never going to be easy, but we expected our troops to do it without resorting the brutality of the enemy – and thanks to their professionalism, their training and their integrity; they carried out that difficult job honorably.
Seeking to profit from their efforts however are those who will not put themselves in harms way to defend anyone else’s freedoms, but who wish to impose additional burdens on those who do.
It is of enormous benefit to the likes of ISIS that soldiers in a combat zone be held to an impossible level of accountability, and that free legal services be provided to enemy combatants so that soldiers doing their duty in difficult circumstances can be ambushed and penalized by their own legal system.
The practical realities of the insurgency in Iraq are of no concern to the lawyers taking these cases. It is, for them, the opportunity to exploit the Legal Aid Fund while promoting their own political agenda. Consequences are not their concern. Unlike the soldiers they persecute, they risk nothing for their actions, and unlike the soldiers they persecute, they suffer no consequence for being wrong. The ability to use the ‘Human Rights’ law to discredit the British Forces is not only remunerative, it is power without responsibility; the prerogative of the harlot through the ages.
ISIS have no hope of winning a conventional battle against any modern military power, but they are the philosophical successors of the Viet Cong who, unable to win any military engagement on the ground in Vietnam; achieved their objectives by undermining support for the war on the domestic front.
Nobody is trying to condone or excuse any sort of criminal behavior here, least of all war crimes, and the accidental death of every innocent civilian is a regrettable tragedy of war, but it was never the British soldier who targeted opposing religious groups or who would use children as suicide bombers. Instead, Shiner’s legal practice was built on money paid to encourage Iraqis to make spurious and malicious abuse claims against honest, decent and brave British soldiers.
There is something inherently questionable about a legal system that requires soldiers to risk their lives on military operations authorized by their Government, then instead of upholding the principle of ‘combatant immunity’ that same Government subjects them to politically-motivated prosecution for the manner in which they acted when their lives were in the greatest danger, under the “universal jurisdiction” of a legal system never designed to apply in the location and the circumstances of the combat zone. Then, when trying to readjust after the traumatic and gruesome experiences they endured fighting for their country, those soldiers are forced to re-live those experiences for the benefit of unprincipled lawyers with a left-wing political agenda.
History has shown there is no alternative in any war against terrorism other than for violence to be met with a certain degree of reciprocal violence. The military challenge is to conduct those operations in such a controlled way as not to further exacerbate the problem by alienating the civilian population.
That objective will never be achieved if the legal system is abused to provide enemy combatants and their sympathizers a platform to disparage and undermine confidence in the Armed Forces. In the 1832, the Prussian strategist von Clausewitz wrote: War is not merely an act of policy but a true political instrument, a continuation of politics carried on with other means. Today, where the threat is non-State combatants, of unconventional and hybrid warfare, spurious and malicious cases under the Human Rights Act, paid for by Legal Aid fund, and pursued by lawyers like Shiner are the continuation of war carried on with other means
There is not a serviceman or woman in Britain shedding a tear over Shiner’s disbarment. Most are angry that that alone is insufficient punishment and want to see him prosecuted for perverting the course of justice.