12:47 GMT +316 August 2018
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    UK Chief of General Staff Gen. Nick Carter (File)

    UK Armed Forces Head Vows to Protect Northern Ireland Veterans Accused of Crimes

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    General Nick Carter, Britain's new armed forces chief, has vowed to defend soldiers facing claims of wrongdoing during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, claiming they will be looked after "to the best of our ability".

    General Nick Carter, who became UK Chief of Defense Staff in June, has used a speech to defending the British army's record in Ulster during the three-decade-long occupation. He said troops had done a "remarkable job" and allegations against soldiers risked undermining the "fighting spirit" of the UK's armed forces if false.

    "It's right and proper if our soldiers have done something wrong then they should clearly be investigated. We need to have standards, values people are held against. What's fundamentally wrong though is if they're chased by people who are making vexatious claims — and that will not happen on my watch. That undermines morale and our combat ethos and our fighting spirit," Carter said.

    Recurring Theme

    His comments echo those of after his predecessor Stuart Peach, who said in June he was "deeply uncomfortable" about veterans being investigated over their conduct during the Troubles, and advocated a statute of limitations on inquiries into events.

    In this Jan. 10, 2017 file photo, British Army chief General Nick Carter makes a speech during the launch of the army's leadership doctrine at the BT Tower in central London
    © AP Photo / Steve Parsons/PA, File
    In this Jan. 10, 2017 file photo, British Army chief General Nick Carter makes a speech during the launch of the army's leadership doctrine at the BT Tower in central London
    His comments followed the issue of a consultation document by Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley aimed at dealing with the legacy of the ‘Troubles' which does not include such a provision. Bradley claimed a statute of limitations for soldiers wasn't legally feasible "without extending it to the terrorists", something the government "could not support".

    "We should never forget 90% of the killings were carried out by terrorists and just 10% by those acting on behalf of the state — almost all of the latter lawfully," she alleged.

    Under the watchful eyes of armed British troops, members of the Ulster Defence Association parade through Belfast, Northern Ireland in August 1972
    © AP Photo /
    Under the watchful eyes of armed British troops, members of the Ulster Defence Association parade through Belfast, Northern Ireland in August 1972
    A similarly ringing endorsement of British military activities in Northern Ireland former part of Carter's pledge — he stated Britons should remind themselves of the "extraordinarily amazing" work the British Army did during its occupation of Northern Ireland.

    "The point I'd make is that we as an institution… are absolutely going to look after those people who are being investigated this way. A lot of people have got a lot of opinions, and that's part of the consultation — I think it would be wrong for me to prejudge which direction it went in. It's sad this is happening," he added.

    Troubles Afoot

    While the support Carter will extend to troops facing historical allegations wasn't specified, but the Bloody Sunday tragedy demonstrates the risks of soldiers ‘closing ranks' to protect one another and themselves.

    On that fateful day in January 1972, British paratroopers opened fire on unarmed protesters in a massacre that will live in infamy evermore, killing 14 and injuring dozens

    The subsequent official investigation into the tragedy was regarded as a corrupt whitewash — it concluded paratroopers had acted in response to gun and nail bomb attacks from suspected IRA members. This finding was reached despite every non-military eyewitness present maintaining soldiers fired without provocation into the unarmed crowd, hitting civilians fleeing the scene and those tending to the wounded in the process, and no British soldier suffering any injuries in the incident, and no non-military bullets or nail bombs being recovered from the scene.

    In this Feb. 2, 1972, file photo Pallbearers carry one of 13 coffins of Bloody Sunday victims to a graveside during a funeral in Derry, Northern Ireland, following requiem mass at nearby St. Mary's church at Creggan Hill.
    © AP Photo /
    In this Feb. 2, 1972, file photo Pallbearers carry one of 13 coffins of Bloody Sunday victims to a graveside during a funeral in Derry, Northern Ireland, following requiem mass at nearby St. Mary's church at Creggan Hill.
    It was not until June 2010 that the Saville Inquiry concluded British soldiers had caused the deaths of innocent civilians who posed no threat of "causing death or serious injury." Moreover, the Inquiry's report made clear soldiers involved in the incident had lied in an attempt to conceal their actions.

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    Tags:
    troop abuses, historical abuse allegations, army, war crimes, the Troubles, Ministry of Defense (MoD), Nick Carter, Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
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