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Defence: Think tank warns of potential catastrophe for UK armed forces

A leading think tank has warned that the UK armed forces face a catastrophe if the rising tide of litigation against it continues, reports the BBC.

The Policy Exchange, a leading UK educational charity, warned that if the 'rising tide' of litigation against the UK armed forces is allowed to continue there could be 'catastrophic consequences' for the nation's security.

The Policy Exchange report, entitled The Fog of Law, was prepared by Tom Tugendhat and Laura Croft. Tugendhat is a Territorial Army Lieutenant Colonel, whilst Croft is a retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel.

The report identifies a change in the way litigation is brought against the armed forces, with more and more civilian-type cases being brought against the military. Most cases, the report claims, involve applications of EU human rights law.

In the past the armed forces were largely immune to civilian litigation due to the rules of Combat Immunity. Recently, however, negligence and duty of care cases have successfully been brought against the armed forces.

The report states that the cost of litigation for the Ministry of Defence has increased to £130m, and that this figure looks set to continue to rise.

One case highlighted in the report was that of Ahmed al-Fartoose, who is suing the UK Government for compensation after claiming he suffered abuse during captivity in Basra, Iraq, during the UK occupation of the city.

One of the reports authors, Lt Col Tugendhat, told the BBC in an interview that whilst UK armed forces should not be considered above the law, their own sacrifices should not be forgotten.

"As the ultimate guarantors of a nation's liberty they have agreed, voluntarily, to surrender or limit many of their own rights. Without this, the nation would be undefended," he told the BBC.

Critics of the report argue that it is seeking to dampen litigation that is often brought to highlight abuses and safety concerns and to ensure that the UK armed forces are accountable for their actions.