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Effectively all Iraq war crime inquiries against British forces dropped in UK

British soldiers in Basra, Iraq (file photo)

Saeed Pourreza
Press TV, London

In November last year, news of the UK government and armed forces covering up the alleged killing of civilians by British troops in Afghanistan and Iraq grabbed the headlines. 

The first allegations of abuse by British troops emerged in the years after the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. In 2006, when images of torture at Iraq’s notorious US-run Abu Ghraib prison had already shocked the world, a video was published of abuse being carried out two years before — British soldiers grabbing four Iraqi boys off the street and dragging them away for a beating, goaded by the soldier filming.

In 2017, new evidence, provided by former British lawyer Phil Shiner, came from inside the UK government’s Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), which investigated alleged war crimes committed by British troops during the occupation of Iraq, and Operation Northmoor, which investigated alleged war crimes in Afghanistan.

The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense denied the allegations out of hand. Phil Shiner was struck off after a tribunal found him guilty of false abuse claims against British troops. And IHAT, established in November 2010, was shut down by the conservative government, with the Defense Secretary Michael Fallon at the time calling it an “unmitigated failure.”

The International Criminal Court launched a separate preliminary investigation following a BBC program about alleged war crimes. But UK prosecutors say it, too, will conclude this year without further action being taken.

Andrew Cayley, director of Service for Prosecution Authority, says he is convinced the ICC will close its preliminary examination this year in respect of Iraq and the United Kingdom.

According to the Iraq Historic Allegations Team, children were killed, and civilians were tortured, and British troops were complicit. And some former investigators say Shiner’s actions were used as an excuse to close down the inquiries.

When IHAT, set up under a Labor government, was shut down by a Conservative government, only 20 cases were taken forward. The other 3,400 on IHAT’s books were shelved indefinitely. And of those 20, only one will now be investigated.

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