Bereaved accuse ministers of war crimes

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The Independent Online

Tony Blair's government has been accused of committing war crimes in Iraq in a complaint by the families of dead British soldiers to the International Criminal Court.

Tony Blair's government has been accused of committing war crimes in Iraq in a complaint by the families of dead British soldiers to the International Criminal Court.

The group of 10 bereaved families claims that British troops were unlawfully ordered to use cluster bombs near civilian areas and to destroy essential power supplies which affected hospitals and water. Their complaint to the ICC, in The Hague, also accuses the Government of illegally acting out of all proportion to the official aim of the war: ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction.

The group, Military Families Against the War, includes Reg Keys, who stood against Mr Blair in the election and won 4,252 votes.

The accusations have been given added weight by revelations that the Attorney General and the head of Britain's armed forces feared that there was a real risk that the ICC would investigate alleged war crimes in Iraq. Lord Goldsmith warned the Prime Minister 12 days before the war began that it was "likely the court will scrutinise any allegations of war crimes by UK forces very closely".

The families' complaint has been bolstered by new admissions by the Ministry of Defence that British cluster bombs used by the Army and RAF in Iraq had an "unacceptably high failure rate".

The ICC has already been sent detailed accusations by two groups of British lawyers that these weapons were fired into built-up areas, failed to explode, and killed Iraqi civilians.

The official MoD report does not dispute that claim. It concedes that this failure rate is "one of the most problematic aspects" of these weapons.