The International Criminal Court (ICC) has said that there is a “reasonable basis” to believe that British soldiers committed war crimes during their campaign in Iraq. In its report on the “Preliminary Examination Activities 2017”, delivered in New York to an assembly of countries, the Chief Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, declared that her office was going to push ahead in gathering evidence to see if a formal investigation is to be launched against the UK at The Hague.
The 74-page report, which lists the cases that are at a preliminary stage, said that the ICC had reopened the case against the UK following submission of further information on alleged crimes. The court had ended a previous preliminary investigation into similar allegations in 2006 because there were fewer than 20 allegations, despite concluding that it had seen evidence suggesting British troops did commit war crimes in Iraq, “namely wilful killing and inhuman treatment”.
The ICC cited “the large volume of allegations of criminality received” by the UK Ministry of Defence through the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT). Between 2010 and the end of June 2017 IHAT received a total of around 3,400 allegations of unlawful killings and ill treatment, the ICC revealed.
Bensouda’s report examines UK domestic controversy surrounding inquiries into war crimes committed by British soldiers in Iraq before concluding that the “Office has independently examined all relevant circumstances” and decided that the information was reliable and could be corroborated, including reports on human rights abuse.
The report cites Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) who alleged that the “UK personnel committed systematically and on a large scale war crimes of torture and related ill-treatment against at least 1,071 Iraqi detainees”. PIL further stated that these violations were carried out under the
UK Government’s deliberate policy of abuse of Iraqi detainees in the period from March 2003 through December 2008 on the territory of Iraq.
In its report, the ICC “reaffirms its previous conclusion that there is a reasonable basis to believe that in the period from 20 March 2003 through 28 July 2009 members of the UK armed forces committed the following war crimes” in Iraq against persons in their custody, including: “wilful killing/murder torture and inhuman/cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, and rape or other forms of sexual violence”.
It declared that it had conducted a comprehensive review of all information available and considered information on relevant national proceedings conducted by the UK authorities before reaching the conclusion that “that there is a reasonable basis to believe that members of the UK armed forces committed war crimes …against persons in their custody”.