Initial BAFF comment on the ADEFDROMIL and Messely ECHR decisions

While the ADEFDROMIL and Matelly judgements 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.

Nevertheless BAFF will now be engaging with politicians on a cross-party basis about this week's developments.

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.

To borrow the words of ex-Attorney General Dominic Grieve MP, we fully expect "howlers" and "factual inaccuracies" about the right of representation to be trotted out when people start to notice these two historic ECHR decisions.

To facilitate a genuine informed debate about these issues, we feel we have a duty to respond to howlers and inaccuracies when we see them.

BAFF will therefore maintain on this website a lighthearted league table of any such howlers and inaccuracies which appear in the coming weeks and months, concerning the representation of armed forces personnel.

The prize will be decided later.

The BAFF League Table of "Howlers" and "Inaccuracies" has now opened at the link below.

Human rights and forces personnel

  • Hits: 1569

Welcome to British Armed Forces Federation - BAFF - independent all-ranks staff association for members of any branch of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, British Army and Royal Air Force, including the reserves. All current UK service personnel of any rank are eligible to join and, as BAFF is not a political organisation, to take an active part in its activities if they wish. Former regular or reserve forces personnel are also very welcome.