Dossier details abuse of detainees

By Jonathan Owen

Prominent British defence force figures are implicated in alleged Iraq war crimes.

Former Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon. Photo / Getty Images
Former Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon. Photo / Getty Images

A250-page dossier, detailing allegations of beatings, electrocution, mock executions and sexual assault, has been presented to the International Criminal Court, and could result in some of Britain's leading defence figures facing prosecution for "systematic" war crimes.

General Sir Peter Wall, the head of the British Army; former Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon; and former Defence Minister Adam Ingram are among those named in the report, entitled "The Responsibility of UK Officials for War Crimes Involving Systematic Detainee Abuse in Iraq from 2003-2008".

The damning dossier draws on cases of more than 400 Iraqis, representing "thousands of allegations of mistreatment amounting to war crimes of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment". They range from "hooding" prisoners to burning, electric shocks, threats to kill and "cultural and religious humiliation".

Other forms of alleged abuse include sexual assault, mock executions, threats of rape, death, and torture.

The formal complaint to the ICC, lodged yesterday, is the cumulation of several years' work by Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) and the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR). It calls for an investigation into the alleged war crimes, under Article 15 of the Rome Statute.

The dossier, seen by the Independent on Sunday, is the most detailed ever submitted to the ICC's Office of the Prosecutor on war crimes allegedly committed by British forces in Iraq.

The court has already acknowledged there was little doubt that war crimes were committed. In 2006, it concluded: "There was a reasonable basis to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the court had been committed, namely wilful killing and inhuman treatment."

At that time, prosecutors cited the low number of cases - fewer than 20 - as a reason for not mounting an investigation. But, since then, hundreds of other claims have come to light - prompting consideration of the complaint now. It is the start of a process which could result in British politicians and generals being put in the dock on war-crimes charges.

The sheer scale and seriousness of the allegations passes the "gravity" threshold to justify an investigation, according to the complaint. The complaint argues that "the pattern of abusive treatment by UK services personnel in Iraq continued over almost six years of military operations".

Several top British officials face serious scrutiny, according to Phil Shiner of PIL. "I think we easily meet the threshold for these issues to be looked at, I would be gobsmacked and bitterly disappointed if they don't look at this."

The report will be publicly released at the Law Society, London, tomorrow.

An MoD spokesperson said: "These matters are either under thorough investigation or have been dealt with ... further action through the ICC is unnecessary when the issues and allegations are already known to the UK Government, action is in hand and the UK courts have already issued judgments."

- Independent

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