BAFF comment on the ADEFDROMIL and Messely ECHR decisions

While the ADEFDROMIL and Matelly judgements by the European Court of Human Rights (2014) refer to the right of armed forces personnel to join a trade union, the issue is the right of military personnel to join a properly constituted representative professional association, whether registered as a trade union or not.

We recognise that while the judgements are very welcome to BAFF, others will view them (or try to portray them) as providing more reason to limit or remove the application of the ECHR.

We mustn't forget that the fundamental case for a recognised independent professional staff association is NOT some provision of the European Convention of Human Rights, but is the fact that a staff association would be useful, constructive and in the professional interests of loyal, effective HM Forces personnel.


The party political argument is not for us, but one of the most helpful things we can do is to scrutinise claims made about the impact of human rights on military personnel, in order to show which claims may be justified - and which might not be.

Although UK armed forces personnel cannot join a trade union for the purposes of representation in their military capacity, they are not prohibited from joining a responsible body such as the British Armed Forces Federation, albeit the Federation is not recognised by the MoD as a representative body. Although no permission whatsoever is required to join BAFF, the MoD has, when requested, granted formal permission to accept appointment as a Director of the BAFF limited company.

Therefore the current UK situation is not the same as in the Matelly case, where a serving gendarmerie officer was directly ordered to resign from membership of an group which he had helped to form. The gendarmerie is part of the French armed forces.

Our French counterparts seeking the right of representation have rightly emphasized that it has nothing to do with the right to strike, or to interfere with the conduct of military operations.

"Howlers" and "factual inaccuracies"

Despite occasional disinformation to the contrary, there has never been a case of any constituted military professional association or trade union seeking to go on strike or interfere with the conduct of military operations.

BAFF's vision of a representative professional staff association is arguably as close to the US model, exemplified by the Association of the United States Army, as to the traditional image of a trade union.

However, NO recognised military representative body in any of the 47 Council of Europe member states has ever tried to call a strike.

That includes those associations which are registered trade unions under their national legislation. There's more about that at Armed forces trade unions?

Human rights and forces personnel, Overseas examples

  • Hits: 1789

1 quote about representation

" While some senior commanders have argued that any independent organisation designed to ''fight for the rights'' of British troops is completely unnecessary and threatens a dangerous breakdown of military discipline, others, such as the late Lord Garden, a former RAF Air Marshal and veteran of the first Gulf War, have been ''surprised talking to retired senior military people who are prepared to think about it, saying there might be a case for it''. "
Out of Step, the case for change in the British armed forces, T Edmunds & A Foster, Demos think tank 2007

BAFF logo

British Armed Forces Federation logo - registered trade mark