13 May 2014

ICC to probe claims British Army committed Iraq war crimes

The International Criminal Court is reopening an investigation into allegations of war crimes against the British Army in Iraq.

New information was provided to the ICC at the start of the year, alleging “systematic detainee abuse”, prompting the ICC’s prosecutor to re-examine the case.

The British government has responded by saying it “completely rejects” claims of systemic abuse.

The ICC was first encouraged to look at allegations of war crimes in 2006, but determined that the “required gravity threshold was not met”.

However, the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights said on 10 January it had submitted “250 pages of factual and legal analysis” to the ICC. At the time, British Foreign Secretary William Hague dismissed calls for an ICC investigations, saying the allegations had “already been dealt with”.

The ECCHR says “over 400 Iraqi former detainees have brought allegations of grave mistreatment committed during the five years which the UK and multinational forces operated in Iraq, from 2003 to 2008”.

Special report: Iraq War – 10 years on

According to the ICC, the new evidence “alleges a higher number of cases of ill-treatment of detainees and provides further details on the factual circumstances and the geographical and temporal scope of the alleged crimes”.

Together with Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), ECCHR has chosen 85 representative cases for analysis by the ICC.

Where allegations have been made that individuals may have broken those laws, they are being comprehensively investigated. Dominic Grieve QC

PIL is currently acting for more than 1,069 former detainees and surviving relatives who allege that they or their family members were unlawfully detained, tortured, or killed by UK service personnel in Iraq. The firm represented the family of Baha Mousa and is also representing alleged victims of mistreatment in Iraq at the long-running Al-Sweady Inquiry into incidents after the Battle of Danny Boy in southern Iraq in May 2004.

Last month, the Ministry of Defence claimed Iraqi complainants had repeatedly lied to the Al-Sweady inquiry.

Iraq detainee

‘Best in the world’

Dominic Grieve, the British attorney general, said the UK government “completely rejects” the allegations and would do “whatever necessary” to show such allegations had been dealt with by the national justice system.

“British troops are some of the best in the world and we expect them to operate to the highest standards, in line with both domestic and international law,” he said.

“In my experience, the vast majority of our armed forces meet those expectations. Where allegations have been made that individuals may have broken those laws, they are being comprehensively investigated.

“As the minister responsible for overseeing the UK’s prosecutors, I understand the importance of the ICC prosecutor following the proper legal procedures when complaints are made.

“The UK government has been, and remains, a strong supporter of the ICC and I will provide the office of the prosecutor with whatever is necessary to demonstrate that British justice is following its proper course.”