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R (on the application of Smith) (FC) (Respondent) v Secretary of State for Defence (Appellant) and another

This case summary is being revised and will be updated soon

Court Supreme Court, Great Britain (UK)
Case number [2010] UKSC 29
Decision title Judgment
Decision date 30 June 2010
  • Mrs Smith
  • The Secretary of State for Defence
Categories Human rights violations
Keywords jurisdiction, Extraterritorial application of human rights, Human Rights Act, Iraq, overseas operations
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Procedural history

Reviewing the case, the High Court ruled that the ECHR applied to all soldiers serving outside the UK, whether or not the death took place on an army base. In the Court of Appeal, it was also decided that the Human Rights Act applied at all times.

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Legally relevant facts

The case concerned a soldier, Private Jason Smith, who died of severe heat stroke in Iraq after complaining of feeling ill to his commanding officers. Smith’s mother had claimed that the UK government owed a duty to her son under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). 

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Court's holding and analysis

The UK Supreme Court ruled by a 6:3 majority that the 1998 Human Rights Act does not afford protection to UK armed forces at all times when deployed abroad. The Supreme Court overruled the decision by the Court of Appeal, finding that UK soldiers on foreign soil are not protected by the provisions of the Act. Reversing the decision the majority held that British soldiers are only subject to UK jurisdiction and protected by human rights provisions when at a British military base or hospital. Accordingly, a soldier’s family did not have an automatic right to an investigation into the cause of death in a battlefield situation.

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Additional materials