British troops will NOT face war crimes trials in The Hague over claims Iraqi prisoners were tortured and killed
- International Criminal Court said it will not open a full-scale investigation
- ICC officials spent six years carrying out an investigation into the allegations
- The Iraq Historical Allegations Team was closed down in 2017
British troops will not be dragged in front of an international court over claims of killing and torturing Iraqi prisoners after a long-standing probe was closed yesterday.
International Criminal Court (ICC) officials had spent six years carrying out a preliminary investigation into allegations of wrongdoing during the Iraq War.
There were fears that if the UK did not investigate the claims sufficiently, British soldiers would end up facing war crimes trials in the court in The Hague.
But in a major win for ministers, the ICC said it will not open a full-scale investigation because UK authorities had already investigated the allegations.
Inquiry: Allegations were made against British personnel during the Iraq War
It referred to the Iraq Historical Allegations Team (IHAT) which waded through thousands of allegations and was closed down in 2017 after no prosecutions.
The global court takes on cases of crimes against humanity, war crimes and other serious international offences only if a member state is unwilling or unable to investigate them or has carried out probes that were not genuine with a view to shielding suspects from justice.
Chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said her office confirmed there was ‘a reasonable basis to believe that members of the British Armed Forces committed the war crimes of wilful killing, torture, inhuman/cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, and rape and/or other forms of sexual violence’ against Iraqi detainees.
She added that the outcome of a decade-long domestic process which had resulted in not a single case submitted for prosecution had ‘deprived the victims of justice’.
But she said that two British probes into the allegations meant her office ‘could not conclude that the UK authorities had remained inactive’.
ICC officials had spent six years carrying out a preliminary investigation into allegations of wrongdoing during the Iraq War.Pictured, British soldiers at the southern Iraqi town of Basra
Miss Bensouda said her office ‘could not substantiate allegations that the UK investigative and prosecutorial bodies had engaged in shielding, based on a careful scrutiny of the information before it’.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the decision ‘vindicates our efforts to pursue justice’.
He added: ‘The ICC has rejected calls to open investigations into the conduct of UK forces.
‘The review confirms that the UK is willing and able to investigate and prosecute claims of wrongdoing by Armed Forces personnel.’
The International Criminal Court building in the Hague
But the decision was met with fury by human rights campaigners.
Clive Baldwin, of Human Rights Watch, said: ‘The UK Government has repeatedly shown precious little interest in investigating and prosecuting atrocities committed abroad by British troops.
‘The prosecutor’s decision to close her UK inquiry will doubtless fuel perceptions of an ugly double standard in justice – one approach to powerful states and quite another for those with less clout.’
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