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Spectacular ‘Tomb of the Kings’ in Jerusalem opened by French authorities for first time in a decade

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Jerusalem‘s ‘Tomb of the Kings’ — the burial site of Queen Helena of Adiabene, a Jewish convert — has been opened to the public for the first time in a decade.

Paying visitors to the French-owned archaeology-cum-holy site in the city’s eastern sector can see the tomb’s impressive courtyard which dates back over 2,000 years. 

France, which has managed the site since the late 19th century, had closed off access as part of an extensive restoration costing $1.1 million (£0.9 million) in 2009. 

The re-admittance of limited numbers of visitors follows several aborted attempts by the French Consulate General to re-open the tomb in the last few months.

Access to the interior burial chambers will remain prohibited, but the public can purchase tickets to visit the tomb’s courtyard and entrance. 

Despite the re-opening, tensions remain between French authorities and both Israeli nationalists and ultra-Orthodox Jews who contest the site’s ownership and entry fee.

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Jerusalem's 'Tomb of the Kings', pictured — the burial site of the Jewish Queen Helena of Adiabene — has been opened to the public for the first time in a decade

Jerusalem's 'Tomb of the Kings', pictured — the burial site of the Jewish Queen Helena of Adiabene — has been opened to the public for the first time in a decade

Jerusalem’s ‘Tomb of the Kings’, pictured — the burial site of the Jewish Queen Helena of Adiabene — has been opened to the public for the first time in a decade

WHAT IS THE ‘TOMB OF THE KINGS’?

The ‘Tomb of the Kings’ is an elaborate burial site located in eastern Jerusalem.

Dating back to the Roman times, the  tomb is believed to have belonged to Queen Helena of Adiabene.

The Mesopotamian monarch was a convert to Judaism.

Archaeologist Louis Félicien de Saulcy, who surveyed the tomb in 1863, mistakenly thought the site was the resting place of the Judean Kings.

He found both human remains and two sarcophogi in the tomb, which he removed to the Louvre, Paris, against the Jewish community’s wishes.

The tomb featured multi-level burial chambers, a burial stone moved by a complex mechanism, a courtyard hewn into the rock and a ritual bath. 

The Tomb of the Kings is ‘definitely one of the most elaborately decorated tombs that we have from the early Roman period in Jerusalem,’ said archaeologist Orit Peleg-Barkat of the Hebrew University.

The underground burial complex — which dates back to the first century BC — remained in the public consciousness and was a popular tourist attraction.

It featured in the writings of the Roman-Jewish historian Titus Flavius Josephus around 200 years later, and in the second century AD was dubbed the second most beautiful tomb in the world by the Greek geographer Pausanias.

The site featured a lowered courtyard hewn into the rock, channels that ran water into a ritual bath, a burial stone operated by a sophisticated mechanism. 

Entrance to the multi-levelled burial chambers comes via an ornate entryway that was once supported by two giant pillars, fragments of which were recovered in the 19th Century.

A search of the tomb in 1847 ordered by the Turkish governor turned up no ‘treasures’ — were there ever any present, they may have been looted previously.

As part of the first archaeological excavations in the Holy Land, France’s Louis Félicien de Saulcy was granted permission by the Turkish sultan to survey the tomb in 1863.

De Saulcy — who mistook the tomb for that of the biblical kings of the House of David — was forced to stop the dig after human remains were discovered.

Against the protestations of the local Jewish community, both the remains and two sarcophagi found inside the tomb were added to the Louvre’s collections in Paris.

As part of the first archaeological excavations in the Holy Land, France's Louis Félicien de Saulcy was granted permission by the Turkish sultan to survey the tomb in 1863. Against the protestations of the local Jewish community, both the human remains and two sarcophagi (one of which is pictured) found within were added to the Louvre's collections in Paris

As part of the first archaeological excavations in the Holy Land, France's Louis Félicien de Saulcy was granted permission by the Turkish sultan to survey the tomb in 1863. Against the protestations of the local Jewish community, both the human remains and two sarcophagi (one of which is pictured) found within were added to the Louvre's collections in Paris

As part of the first archaeological excavations in the Holy Land, France’s Louis Félicien de Saulcy was granted permission by the Turkish sultan to survey the tomb in 1863. Against the protestations of the local Jewish community, both the human remains and two sarcophagi (one of which is pictured) found within were added to the Louvre’s collections in Paris

Access to the interior burial chambers, pictured, will remain prohibited, but the public can purchase tickets to visit the tomb's courtyard and entrance

Access to the interior burial chambers, pictured, will remain prohibited, but the public can purchase tickets to visit the tomb's courtyard and entrance

 Access to the interior burial chambers, pictured, will remain prohibited, but the public can purchase tickets to visit the tomb’s courtyard and entrance

In 1878, Amalya Bertrand — a French Jewish woman — purchased the tomb and the surrounding property for 30,000 francs from its Arab owners via the French consul in Jerusalem.

‘I am of the firm opinion that this property, the field and the burial cave of the kings, will become the land in perpetuity of the Jewish community,’ she wrote at the time.

This, she had declared, would allow it ‘to be preserved from desecration and abomination, and will never again be damaged by foreigners.’

Bertrand commissioned a guard post and border wall to be constructed around the tomb, however the burial chamber was robbed while such were being built.

Eight years later, one of her heirs donated the land to the French government.

Paying visitors to the French-owned archaeology-cum-holy site in the city's eastern sector can see the tomb's impressive courtyard which dates back over 2,000 years

Paying visitors to the French-owned archaeology-cum-holy site in the city's eastern sector can see the tomb's impressive courtyard which dates back over 2,000 years

Paying visitors to the French-owned archaeology-cum-holy site in the city’s eastern sector can see the tomb’s impressive courtyard which dates back over 2,000 years

France, which has managed the site since the late 19th century, had closed off access as part of an extensive restoration costing $1.1 million (£0.9 million) in 2009. Pictured, the tomb site as it appeared near the end of the 19th Century

France, which has managed the site since the late 19th century, had closed off access as part of an extensive restoration costing $1.1 million (£0.9 million) in 2009. Pictured, the tomb site as it appeared near the end of the 19th Century

France, which has managed the site since the late 19th century, had closed off access as part of an extensive restoration costing $1.1 million (£0.9 million) in 2009. Pictured, the tomb site as it appeared near the end of the 19th Century

Most experts now contest that the tomb belonged to the Queen Helena of Adiabene, a Mesopotamian monarch who converted to Judaism in the first century BC. 

One of the sarcophagi from the tomb, now held in the Louvre, bears an inscription that is believed to refer to either Helena or one of her relatives.

‘Altogether, I think there is a scholarly agreement that this tomb should be associated with [Queen] Helena,’ said Dr Peleg-Barkat.

Those who worship at the tomb believe it was the resting place of several prominent Jewish figures from antiquity — including Queen Helena and her relatives — and that praying there will help bring rain and good financial fortune. 

Ultra-Orthodox Jews have repeated called for the site to be opened for prayer without any form of restriction.

The re-admittance of limited numbers of visitors follows several aborted attempts by the French Consulate General to re-open the tomb in the last few months

The re-admittance of limited numbers of visitors follows several aborted attempts by the French Consulate General to re-open the tomb in the last few months

The re-admittance of limited numbers of visitors follows several aborted attempts by the French Consulate General to re-open the tomb in the last few months

Entrance to the multi-levelled burial chambers comes via an ornate entryway that was once supported by two giant pillars, fragments of which were recovered in the 19th Century and can be seen here in this lithograph dating back to 1842

Entrance to the multi-levelled burial chambers comes via an ornate entryway that was once supported by two giant pillars, fragments of which were recovered in the 19th Century and can be seen here in this lithograph dating back to 1842

Entrance to the multi-levelled burial chambers comes via an ornate entryway that was once supported by two giant pillars, fragments of which were recovered in the 19th Century and can be seen here in this lithograph dating back to 1842

Political complexities arise in the fact that the neighbourhood surrounding the tomb — Sheikh Jarrah — is predominantly Palestinian.

French officials have expressed concern that allowing unrestricted access to the tomb — potentially encouraging large numbers of religious Jewish visitors to the neighbourhood — could increase local tensions and even spark violence.

Furthermore, they have said, the tomb could become a Jewish holy site and a foothold for Israeli nationalists to form a new settlement around it. 

This would not be without some precedent. Another ancient tomb located in in Sheikh Jarrah — that of Simeon the Just, at which ultra-Orthodox Jews pray — has attracted a surrounding enclave of Israeli homes in the Palestinian neighbourhood.

Israel occupied east Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967, and subsequently passed a law annexing the territory in 1980 — a move that has not been recognised by the United Nations.

Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, whereas Israel considers the entire city its capital.

The past decade has seen a rise in Israeli nationalists buying properties in Sheikh Jarrah and other east Jerusalem neighbourhoods and evicting their Palestinian residents.

Access to the interior burial chambers will remain prohibited, but the public can purchase tickets to visit the tomb's courtyard and entrance

Access to the interior burial chambers will remain prohibited, but the public can purchase tickets to visit the tomb's courtyard and entrance

Access to the interior burial chambers will remain prohibited, but the public can purchase tickets to visit the tomb’s courtyard and entrance

Despite the re-opening, tensions remain between French authorities and both Israeli nationalists and ultra-Orthodox Jews who contest the site's ownership and entry fee

Despite the re-opening, tensions remain between French authorities and both Israeli nationalists and ultra-Orthodox Jews who contest the site's ownership and entry fee

Despite the re-opening, tensions remain between French authorities and both Israeli nationalists and ultra-Orthodox Jews who contest the site’s ownership and entry fee

Access to the interior burial chambers, pictured, will remain prohibited, but the public can purchase tickets to visit the tomb's courtyard and entrance

Access to the interior burial chambers, pictured, will remain prohibited, but the public can purchase tickets to visit the tomb's courtyard and entrance

Access to the interior burial chambers, pictured, will remain prohibited, but the public can purchase tickets to visit the tomb’s courtyard and entrance

Yonathan Mizrachi, head of the Israeli organisation Emek Shaveh which opposes the politicisation of archaeology, said that the tomb’s location in Sheikh Jarrah is what makes it so ‘politically problematic’ for the French authorities. 

Conflict over the site was reportedly heightened in 1997, when the consulate permitted the Jerusalem Festival of Arabic Music, organised by the Palestinian cultural organisation Yabous, which advocates for the boycott of Israel. 

Following the closure of the tomb site in 2009, protests have been staged outside the tomb’s gates by ultra-Orthodox Jews and religious nationalists. 

Israeli religious groups have also sought legal avenues with which to strip France’s ownership of the property in court.

In 2015, for example, two Israeli rabbis sued the French government in a rabbinic court for control of the site.

The Tomb of the Kings is 'definitely one of the most elaborately decorated tombs that we have from the early Roman period in Jerusalem,' said Orit Peleg-Barkat of the Hebrew University

The Tomb of the Kings is 'definitely one of the most elaborately decorated tombs that we have from the early Roman period in Jerusalem,' said Orit Peleg-Barkat of the Hebrew University

The Tomb of the Kings is ‘definitely one of the most elaborately decorated tombs that we have from the early Roman period in Jerusalem,’ said Orit Peleg-Barkat of the Hebrew University

At its prime, the site featured a lowered courtyard hewn into the rock, channels that ran water into a ritual bath, a burial stone operated by a sophisticated mechanism

At its prime, the site featured a lowered courtyard hewn into the rock, channels that ran water into a ritual bath, a burial stone operated by a sophisticated mechanism

At its prime, the site featured a lowered courtyard hewn into the rock, channels that ran water into a ritual bath, a burial stone operated by a sophisticated mechanism

Political complexities arise in the fact that the neighbourhood surrounding the tomb — Sheikh Jarrah — is predominantly Palestinian

Political complexities arise in the fact that the neighbourhood surrounding the tomb — Sheikh Jarrah — is predominantly Palestinian

 Political complexities arise in the fact that the neighbourhood surrounding the tomb — Sheikh Jarrah — is predominantly Palestinian

That case was thrown out, but a Jewish organisation called ‘Hekdesh of the Tomb of the Kings’ has renewed the challenge to France’s ownership of the property.

In the May of 2019, Hekdesh sued the French government in the Supreme Court of France, claiming that the Bertrand family’s donation of the Tomb of the Kings was unlawful and the property should instead belong to a Jewish trust.

Last month, French Senator Gilbert Roger said that lawsuits challenging France were ‘part of a global strategy of “territorial nibbling” on the part of religious nationalists.’

‘The conflict begins when religious people […] try to claim possession over the grave because of the location in east Jerusalem,’ he added.

Those who worship at the tomb believe it was the resting place of several prominent Jewish figures from antiquity — including Queen Helena and her relatives — and that praying there will help bring rain and good financial fortune

Those who worship at the tomb believe it was the resting place of several prominent Jewish figures from antiquity — including Queen Helena and her relatives — and that praying there will help bring rain and good financial fortune

Those who worship at the tomb believe it was the resting place of several prominent Jewish figures from antiquity — including Queen Helena and her relatives — and that praying there will help bring rain and good financial fortune

Conflict over the site was reportedly heightened in 1997, when the consulate permitted the Jerusalem Festival of Arabic Music, organised by the Palestinian cultural organisation Yabous, which advocates for the boycott of Israel

Conflict over the site was reportedly heightened in 1997, when the consulate permitted the Jerusalem Festival of Arabic Music, organised by the Palestinian cultural organisation Yabous, which advocates for the boycott of Israel

Conflict over the site was reportedly heightened in 1997, when the consulate permitted the Jerusalem Festival of Arabic Music, organised by the Palestinian cultural organisation Yabous, which advocates for the boycott of Israel

In a statement, France's Consulate General said that the reopening was the 'fruit of restoration and security work conducted by the French authorities over the past 10 years' The consulate is committed, they continued, to facilitating 'visits by small groups in accordance with the rules'

In a statement, France's Consulate General said that the reopening was the 'fruit of restoration and security work conducted by the French authorities over the past 10 years' The consulate is committed, they continued, to facilitating 'visits by small groups in accordance with the rules'

In a statement, France’s Consulate General said that the reopening was the ‘fruit of restoration and security work conducted by the French authorities over the past 10 years’ The consulate is committed, they continued, to facilitating ‘visits by small groups in accordance with the rules’

In a statement, France’s Consulate General said that the reopening was the ‘fruit of restoration and security work conducted by the French authorities over the past 10 years’

The consulate is committed, they continued, to facilitating ‘visits by small groups in accordance with the rules.’

Israel’s Foreign Ministry reportedly hailed the move as a product of ‘long and strenuous’ negotiations with France, but declined to elaborate on those talks.

Entrance to the tomb site is limited to 60 people on Tuesdays and Thursdays. 

Visitors — including those intending to pray — must pre-purchase tickets online and register with a passport or ID card. 

However, some Jews have contended that the consulate’s rules are designed to deter worshippers, as many ultra-Orthodox Jews avoid Internet use and object to paying for entry to a place of worship.

‘France is doing everything to prevent there being a lot of people coming to pray,’ said Haim Berkovits, a Hekdesh representative.

The site, he added, needs to be ‘open, as it should be, like every other historic site and place of worship.’

The Tomb of the Kings is located in Jerusalem's eastern sector. Political complexities arise in the fact that the neighbourhood surrounding it — Sheikh Jarrah — is predominantly Palestinian

The Tomb of the Kings is located in Jerusalem's eastern sector. Political complexities arise in the fact that the neighbourhood surrounding it — Sheikh Jarrah — is predominantly Palestinian

The Tomb of the Kings is located in Jerusalem’s eastern sector. Political complexities arise in the fact that the neighbourhood surrounding it — Sheikh Jarrah — is predominantly Palestinian

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Using a barbecue in Sydney could lead to jail time and a $5,500 fine

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Australians could be jailed and stung with a fine for using barbecues this summer.

The strict penalties apply in Sydney for people using a wood or coal-fired barbecue without proper provisions for putting fires out.

Lighting a fire would result in a fine of $2,200 but if the matter is taken to court, people could face a year in jail and be fined up to $5,500. 

Sydneysiders could face 12 months in jail and be slapped with a $5,500 fine for using a barbeque during a statewide total fire ban (stock image)

Sydneysiders could face 12 months in jail and be slapped with a $5,500 fine for using a barbeque during a statewide total fire ban (stock image)

Sydneysiders could face 12 months in jail and be slapped with a $5,500 fine for using a barbeque during a statewide total fire ban (stock image)  

Australians who start a fire, which spreads, hurts a person or destroys property during the ban will be slapped with a maximum fine of $132,000.

Additionally, they could also face 14 years behind bars.  

Total fire bans in Sydney are implemented by the NSW Rural Fire Service, during extremely hot weather and when bushfires are happening. 

Under the ban, it is illegal to light, maintain or use a fire in the open or to carry out any activity outdoors, which is likely to cause a blaze. 

A statewide total fire ban has been declared for Monday and Tuesday, following the devastating blazes, which ravaged the NSW mid north coast on Saturday afternoon. 

But using an electric barbecue for cooking is permitted under the supervision of an adult.

Gas barbecues can also be used on the conditions there is adult supervision, no combustible material within two metres, and an immediate and continuous supply of water.  

The gas barbecue must also be within 20m of a home or be at a designated picnic area and be approved by the council, national parks or state forest.

Total fire bans are declared during extremely hot weather and if bushfires are happening (pictured: a firefighter fights a blaze at a property in Torrington, near Glen Innes, NSW on Sunday)

Total fire bans are declared during extremely hot weather and if bushfires are happening (pictured: a firefighter fights a blaze at a property in Torrington, near Glen Innes, NSW on Sunday)

Total fire bans are declared during extremely hot weather and if bushfires are happening (pictured: a firefighter fights a blaze at a property in Torrington, near Glen Innes, NSW on Sunday)

Permits are suspended during a total fire ban. 

Some activities involving fire can be exempt during the bans, such as emergency infrastructure work, bee hive smokers or ceremonial fires.

The exemptions are detailed in the NSW Government Gazette each time a total fire ban is declared.  

TOTAL FIRE BAN RULES IN NSW 

What is a total fire ban?  

A total fire ban means no fires out in the open to prevent a potential blaze from starting. 

You cannot light, maintain or use a fire in the open or carry out any activity outdoors likely to cause a blaze. 

Can I use a barbecue or pizza oven?

Using a barbecue or pizza oven which burns solid fuel such as wood, charcoal or heat beads is banned. 

Permits are suspended during the ban but can be used after the restriction is lifted. 

What barbecues are allowed to be used?

You can use an electric barbecue given there is adult supervision and no combustible material within two metres. 

You can use a gas barbecue under the following conditions: 

– Adult supervision

– No combustible material within two metres

– Immediate and continuous supply of water 

– Used within 20 metres of a private dwelling such as a home 

– Is within a designated picnic area and is approved by the council, national parks of state forest 

What are the penalties? 

Persons lighting a fire can incur an on the spot fine of $2,200. 

If the matter is taken to court, they could face 12 years in jail and/or a $5,500 fine. 

A fire started which spreads, hurts a person or damages property or the environment can lead to a $132,000 fine and/or 14 months in jail. 

What are the exemptions during a Total Fire Ban? 

A range of activities may be exempt during the ban such as emergency infrastructure work, bee hive smokers, mining operations, sugar can harvesting, use of fire works or ceremonial fires. 

The exemptions are datailed in the NSW Government Gazette every time a Total Fire Ban is declared.  

Can I apply for a Total Fire Ban exemption? 

If you want to light a fire or carry out an activity which could lead to one, you can check the Government Gazette to see if there is a standard exemption that applies to your situation. 

If the standard exemptions don’t cover your circumstances then you may apply for a specific exemption by filling out a Total Fire Ban application form. 

You will be notified if your application is approved or declined.  

 

Source: NSW Rural Fire Service 

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State of emergency declared for NSW

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NSW has declared a state of emergency for seven days starting immediately as bushfires rage across the state.

Emergency Services Minister David Elliott warned residents were facing what “could be the most dangerous bushfire week this nation has ever seen”.

The NSW fires have claimed three lives and so far destroyed more than 150 homes.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the last time a state of emergency was declared in the state was 2013 when there were extensive bushfires in the Blue Mountains.

Ms Berejiklian warned people to “for heaven’s sake, stay away from bushland” on Tuesday.

“The catastrophic weather conditions mean that things can change very quickly,” she told reporters on Monday.

“You might think you’re OK and a few minutes later you won’t be. Please heed all the messages you receive. Tomorrow (Tuesday) is not the day to be complacent.”

Mr Elliott said the state of emergency was precautionary but necessary.

“We have tools like state of emergency available to us to ensure there is no legal barrier, there are no operational barriers, to ensure that the people of the Rural Fire Service (can) do what they’re meant to do,” the minister said.

There are currently 60 fires burning across NSW with more than half uncontained.

“Catastrophic is off the conventional scale,” RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.

“We are talking about indices that go well beyond the old scale of 100.”

The blazes are raging from the northern border with Queensland down to the mid-north coast, out to the state’s central west and south toward the Illawarra.

Catastrophic fire danger has been declared for the Sydney and Hunter regions on Tuesday with severe and extreme danger across vast tracts of the rest of the state.

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Boris Johnson vows to change human rights law to protect soldiers who served in Northern Ireland

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Boris Johnson last night vowed to change the law to protect Northern Ireland veterans.

On the eve of Armistice Day, he unveiled a plan to end a legal ‘witch-hunt’ against our former soldiers and told them: ‘We will always support you.’

The Prime Minister wants to amend the Human Rights Act so that it does not apply to any incidents before it came into force in October 2000.

It would end the obligation on the authorities to investigate veterans, many now in their 60s, who served during the Troubles.

The Prime Minister (pictured) wants to amend the Human Rights Act so that it does not apply to any incidents before it came into force in October 2000

Ben Wallace said the ‘Armed Forces have been subject to rulings by British courts which have led to the law being weaponised against our Armed Forces.’

He said it was ‘illogical to apply improper extensions of human rights law’ when the law of armed conflict already applies to military operations.

Mr Wallace said the Tories would ‘end the unfair trials of people who served their country when no new evidence has been produced and when the accusations have already been exhaustively questioned in court’ it added.

Ahead of a trip to the Black Country today, Mr Johnson said: ‘If I’m elected on the 12th December, I want the message from my Government to our Armed Forces to be louder and clearer than ever: we salute you and we will always support you.’

Ben Wallace (pictured) said the 'Armed Forces have been subject to rulings by British courts which have led to the law being weaponised against our Armed Forces'

Ben Wallace (pictured) said the 'Armed Forces have been subject to rulings by British courts which have led to the law being weaponised against our Armed Forces'

Ben Wallace (pictured) said the ‘Armed Forces have been subject to rulings by British courts which have led to the law being weaponised against our Armed Forces’

In 2017 Theresa May announced plans to prevent troops being investigated in future conflicts following a campaign by the Daily Mail.

Today’s announcement is a huge victory for ex-soldiers who have faced years of uncertainty.

Veterans minister Johnny Mercer said: ‘The Armed Forces has always ensured that those who break the law will be held to account – our ability to do this sets us apart from those we do battle with. There has never been a hiding place in uniform for those who cannot operate within the professional boundaries.

‘But war and conflict is changing, and so-called ‘lawfare’ is now a part of that. We must protect our service personnel accordingly.

‘With a Conservative majority government, the Law of Armed Conflict will be the appropriate and specific choice for military operations.’

Mr Mercer, a former Army captain, added: ‘The Human Rights Act will be amended to specify that it doesn’t apply to issues – including any death in the Northern Ireland Troubles – that took place before the Act came into force in October 2000. This will restore the intended scope of the Act.’

The Mail has highlighted how veterans have faced repeated investigations over alleged incidents many decades earlier. And David Petraeus, a former US general, yesterday issued an extraordinary condemnation of the legal ‘witch-hunt’. 

His comments came in a foreword to a report by the Policy Exchange think-tank published that calls on the Government to amend the Human Rights Act.

The Act gives effect to the principles set out in the European Convention on Human Rights, such as the prohibition of torture and the right to a fair trial.

It is understood that under the proposed shake-up, the Government would not be obliged to force veterans to give evidence to inquests in Northern Ireland.

Former soldiers have been before as many as 70 inquests – an experience Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said they found ‘frightening’.

Veterans minister Johnny Mercer (pictured) said: 'The Armed Forces has always ensured that those who break the law will be held to account – our ability to do this sets us apart from those we do battle with'

Veterans minister Johnny Mercer (pictured) said: 'The Armed Forces has always ensured that those who break the law will be held to account – our ability to do this sets us apart from those we do battle with'

Veterans minister Johnny Mercer (pictured) said: ‘The Armed Forces has always ensured that those who break the law will be held to account – our ability to do this sets us apart from those we do battle with’

The change would also aim to limit the number of criminal cases troops face, although details on this are unclear. It is understood the Tories are planning to bring in further reforms to ensure criminal cases are stamped out.

They have also unveiled proposals for a tax cut for businesses by scrapping their national insurance contributions for a year for each veteran they take on.

The party has pledged to provide ‘wraparound’ childcare for military families, including breakfast clubs and after-school clubs. This would cover early starts and late finishes for working parents of children aged four to 11 in an attempt to persuade women to stay in uniform.

Veterans will also be guaranteed a job interview for any public sector role they apply for in a move to overcome obstacles to employment. Mr Johnson said: ‘These measures will mean more childcare support for those who are currently serving.

‘And it will mean that we harness the enormous contribution that veterans can make to our businesses and public sector organisations.’

Mr Wallace added: ‘In the days of advanced technology and automation it is easy to forget that the most important equipment in the Armed Forces are the men and women serving. This policy demonstrates our commitment to them and is a recognition of the pressures they face.’

Jeremy Corbyn has also announced a series of reforms, pledging decent housing for the military and their families and better access to schools.

Labour says that it will consult on creating a body similar to the Police Federation to give a ‘voice’ to servicemen and women. 

US general condemns witch-hunt  

By Larisa Brown Defence and Security Editor 

A former US general today blasts Britain’s ‘unfair’ legal witch-hunt against soldiers and veterans.

General David Petraeus, who led coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, will say it is appalling that troops who served in Northern Ireland remain exposed to the risk of prosecution decades on.

His intervention comes in a report by a think-tank resisting the ‘judicialisation’ of war. General Petraeus wrote: ‘British soldiers are increasingly subject to a different legal regime than are their American counterparts.’ 

The former CIA chief said the extension of the European Convention on Human Rights to the battlefield had made ‘extensive litigation against British soldiers inevitable’, adding: ‘This, in turn, risks promoting a culture of risk aversion in the ranks.

‘The unfair pursuit of British soldiers and veterans in the aftermath of operations is particularly concerning. This has caused enormous stress and anxiety on those who are caught up in investigations, sometimes years or even decades after their combat service.

‘The extent to which those who served decades ago in Northern Ireland, including the highly distinguished soldier-scholar General Sir Frank Kitson, remain exposed to legal risk is striking and appalling.

‘This is not only unfair to those who have served and sacrificed for their country, it also gravely undermines the morale of those serving now and raises an unnecessary concern for potential recruits.’

Professor Richard Ekins and Julie Marionneau, who wrote the Policy Exchange report, say ministers must maintain the policy of derogating from the ECHR in future battles, as promised by the Tory party.

The pair also argue that the Human Rights Act must be amended.

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