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British soldiers now exempt from Europe’s human rights convention

The U.K.'s Defense Secretary Michael Fallon has announced plans to stop legal claims against British soldiers in combat, by exempting them from laws on human rights.

At the Conservative Party conference, Fallon revealed a policy change that will see Britain opt out of parts of the European Convention on Human Rights during future conflicts.

Speaking to CNBC Tuesday, the Defense Secretary said the convention on human rights was being misused and had strayed from its remit to help maintain peace inside Europe.

"We've now found several thousand claims lodged against our brave troops for detaining potential terrorists who have been firing at them.

"[They are] detaining people in Afghanistan or Iraq who are saying they have a right to liberty under the European convention," he said.

Fallon said the U.K. would get out of the convention in future conflicts but would continue to respect domestic laws as well as the Geneva Convention.

The European convention's rules allow for countries to exempt themselves in certain situations, including on the battlefield. The move was a commitment made in last year's general election by the Conservative Party.

In pre-released excerpts from Tuesday's conference speech by U.K Prime Minister Theresa May, the British leader said it was important soldiers were not left to fight legal cases when they came home.

"We will repay them with gratitude and put an end to the industry of vexatious claims that has pursued those who served in previous conflicts," she said.


Brexit effect

Defense was a key policy discussion for Britons in June's referendum on membership of the European Union.

The Defense Secretary Michael Fallon told CNBC that, in military terms, the U.K. would make a success of Brexit by having a more international focus.

"Although we are leaving the EU we are going to fulfill our commitments to NATO, including to the European continent and you will also find us doing more internationally.

"You will also find us doing more with our key partners, especially the United States," he said.

To back his point Fallon outlined plans to put more British troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Poland and the Baltic states.

The minister originally backed the losing "remain" vote in the Brexit referendum but dismissed claims that the U.K. government was divided.

"The people have spoken. We have had the referendum and there aren't three Brexiteers in the cabinet, we are all Brexiteers now in the cabinet," he said.