Brendan McGurk successfully defends MoD from civil claims arising out of the UK’s role in Kosovo

04 Aug 2016

The High Court has determined a series of preliminary issues arising out of claims brought by three individuals whose family members were murdered by unknown third parties in the immediate aftermath of the withdrawal of Slobodan Milosovic’s forces from Kosovo in June 1999. Milosovic’s withdrawal followed Nato operations to which the UK contributed. Following the promulgation of UN Security Council Resolution 1244, the UK provided forces to the Kosovo Force (or KFOR) which was given various security taskings. The murders took place within the area for which UK forces had lead responsibility. The Claimants brought (i) claims under the Human Rights Act and (ii) tort claims under local Kosovan law in the Queen’s Bench Division. They were seeking, amongst other things, the establishment of a public enquiry in relation to the alleged breach of the investigative obligations alleged to have arisen under Articles 2 and 3 ECHR, and damages. Preliminary issues were heard on, amongst other issues, (i) whether the alleged acts or omissions of UK forces were to be attributed to the UK or the UN; (ii) whether the claimants where within the jurisdiction of the UK for the purposes of Article 1 of the ECHR; (iii) whether an investigative obligation arose or continued under Articles 2 or 3 of the ECHR; and (iv) whether the UK could avail of any operative immunity in relation to such claims. In a long and detailed judgment, Irwin J determined all of the preliminary issues in favour of the MoD. The Claims will therefore be dismissed.

Brendan McGurk was led by James Eadie QC. The judgment, whose neutral citation is [2016] EWHC 2034 (QB), can be found here.