Pressure grows for inquiry into UK role in Iraq 'war crimes'

Senior UK military and political figures could end up in the dock as 400 victims denounce 'systemic' use of torture and cruelty

Political Editor

Legal experts from around the world are to join calls for an investigation into whether British politicians and senior military figures should be prosecuted for alleged war crimes in Iraq.

An open letter from about a dozen heavyweight figures will increase the pressure on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to launch a formal inquiry into allegations that more than 400 Iraqis were victims of  thousands of incidents of mistreatment amounting to “torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”

The Independent on Sunday revealed that a 250-page dossier has been submitted to the ICC  in The Hague by Public Interest Lawyers and the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights. It will be published in London on Tuesday.

Ministers dismissed the need for an investigation, pointing out that the ICC had rejected such a call in 2006.  However, the letter from international experts will argue that fewer than 20 cases were known about then and that hundreds of new cases have emerged since.

William Schabas, professor of law at Middlesex University, who is co-ordinating the letter, said: “There is fresh evidence that was not there in 2006.  A lot more has come to light since then. We think the 2006 decision was wrong and we want the [ICC] Prosecutor to look at it through a different lens.”  He believed there was enough evidence to pass the tests for an ICC inquiry to be launched – that there was systematic rather isolated abuse; the scale of the complaints cleared the “gravity” threshold and that the claims had not been properly investigated by the UK.  However, the Government will argue that these criteria have not been met.

The dossier names General Sir Peter Wall, the head of the British Army; Geoff Hoon, the former Defence Secretary and Adam Ingram, the former Armed Forces Minister, who did not respond for requests to comment. The complainants decided to name those responsible for the UK’s strategy in Iraq following the US-led invasion in 2003. But political and defence figures said the ICC was unlikely to hold them responsible for actions “on the ground.”

William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, said there was no “systematic” torture by troops and individual cases had either already been dealt with by the British authorities or were the subject of inquiries.

He told Sky News: “There have been some cases of abuse that have been acknowledged and apologies and compensation have been paid appropriately.  But the Government has always been clear and the armed forces have been clear that they absolutely reject allegations of systematic abuses by the British armed forces. The British armed forces uphold high standards and they are the finest armed forces in the world.“

Lord Goldsmith, who was Attorney General at the time of the invasion, said: “Although I’ve had concerns, I never saw evidence of systematic abuse, I never saw evidence for example – and that is what has surprised me today – that any senior politicians or even, for that matter, or even senior military figures were aware, let alone authorised this.  I think it is unfortunate that people who are out of office have these sorts of headlines against them so we’ll have to see.” 

Lord Dannatt, the former Head of the Army, was “very optimistic” the allegations would not be proven. He told Sky: “To suggest that this was a systemic, widespread, almost a matter of policy, I find that very hard to understand, very hard to accept and I would be very, very surprised if a case held up in somewhere like the ICC.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor