Investigation of alleged torture by UK troops in Iraq to be reopened

With the International Criminal Court in The Hague announcing a “preliminary examination” of the torture of Iraqis by British troops stationed in Iraq, several senior British military and political figures face the possibility of being interrogated for their alleged role in war crimes.

The Prosecutor of the ICC Fatou Bensouda announced on May 13 that she was re-opening the war crimes investigation that had been closed in 2006. She cited as reason the “submission of further information to the Office of the Prosecutor in January 2014,” which “alleges the responsibility of officials of the United Kingdom for war crimes involving systematic detainee abuse in Iraq from 2003 until 2008.”

The United Kingdom is a signatory to the ICC.  “The re-opened preliminary examination will analyse, in particular, alleged crimes attributed to the armed forces of the United Kingdom deployed in Iraq between 2003 and 2008,” Mrs Bensouda said.

The reopening of the case followed evidence submitted by Public Interest Lawyers, a law firm that is working pro bono for 412 Iraqi victims, and the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR). Their petition alludes to “severe physical and psychological abuse sustained while in the custody of UK Services Personnel from 2003 to 2008,” a press release from the law firm stated.

The victims allege a gamut of torture techniques used by British soldiers against Iraqis – from hooding and sensory-cum-sleep deprivation to emotional abuse; from mock executions and rape threats to severe physical torture.

The same techniques were used in many UK facilities in Iraq and were therefore “systemic”, the petitioners allege.

The victims have implicated personnel going up the chain of command of the UK army, and have demanded that all officers above the rank of divisional task force officers be investigated. Ultimate responsibility, the petition alleges, lies with the Secretary of State for Defence, and the Minister of State for Service Personnel.

The three Secretaries of State named are Geoffrey Hoon, John Reid, Des Browne, and the two Ministers of State, Adam Ingram and Bob Ainsworth. General Sir Peter Hall was the chief the army at the time.

The British government has denied the accusations. Attorney General Dominic Grieve in a press statement said the Government "completely rejects" claims that British forces had been responsible for systemic abuse and pledged to do whatever is necessary to show that the British justice system is dealing such allegations.

The Independent has quoted General Lord Dannatt, former chief of defence staff, as saying that he supported investigations into credible accusations of misconduct by soldiers, but is “deeply skeptical” of allegations that systemic abuse was being covered up.

Phil Shiner, the head of PIL called the reopening of the case “an unprecedented and extremely important breakthrough in a 10-year struggle for accountability for the criminality that was the UK’s detention and interrogation policies in Iraq.”

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Printable version | May 19, 2021 3:29:38 AM |

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