World, Europe

ICC assesses allegations of British army war crimes

Court says findings of recent investigation might be relevant to launch investigation

Ahmet Gurhan Kartal   | 18.11.2019
ICC assesses allegations of British army war crimes

LONDON

The International Criminal Court said on Monday it would assess the allegations into alleged war crimes by the British army in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The court would “independently assess” the findings of an investigation by The Times and Panorama program, the ICC’s Office Prosecutor was quoted as saying by a BBC report.

The prosecutor also said the findings could be "highly relevant" to make a decision on a potential probe into the allegations.

A series of leaked government documents suggested on Sunday that British army has covered up various war crimes committed during campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to local media.

An investigation by The Times and BBC Panorama found out that “evidence implicating British soldiers in the murder of children and the torture of civilians was covered up by military commanders.”

Military detectives “unearthed disturbing allegations that senior commanders had tried to hide war crimes by British troops in Afghanistan and Iraq,” The Times reported citing the investigation.

The Times said evidence had been discovered of “murders by an SAS [Special Air Service] soldier and deaths in custody, beatings, torture and degrading sexual abuse of detainees by members of the Black Watch (3rd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland).”

The military detectives also discovered “allegations of the falsification of documents serious enough to merit prosecutions of senior officers,” according to the report.


'Pressure from Ministry of Defence'

Investigators from the inquiries have expressed frustration that compelling evidence was swept aside for political reasons, according to the British daily.

“Key decisions were being taken out of our hands,” said an investigator.

“There was more and more pressure coming from the Ministry of Defence to get cases closed as quickly as possible.”

The Times elaborated on the cases under investigation and said the crimes included the murder of three children and one young man shot in Afghanistan in October 2012 by an SAS soldier and widespread abuse of prisoners in the 2003 summer at Camp Stephen, in Basra, Iraq and deaths of two detainees in custody.

Another crime looked into by the investigators was the fatal shooting of an Iraqi policeman in August 2003, which was covered up based on a soldier’s witness account. The soldier later said evidence was fabricated without his knowledge.

British Ministry of Defence (MoD) rejected the allegations in a statement, saying their alleged interference in cases was “untrue”.

“Allegations that the MOD interfered with investigations or prosecution decisions relating to the conduct of U.K. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are untrue,” the MoD said.

“Throughout the process the decisions of prosecutors and the investigators have been independent of the MOD and involved external oversight and legal advice,” a statement said.

The Service Police “have carried out extensive investigations into allegations about the conduct of U.K. forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan,” and the independent Service Prosecuting Authority decided not to prosecute any of the cases referred to it, according to the ministry.

A documentary of the alleged crimes will be aired Monday evening by the BBC Panorama.

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