POLITICS

Senior Ministers In Blair's Government Face Crime Probe Over Iraq 'War Crimes'

12/01/2014 09:09 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 21:01 GMT
Chris Jackson/PA Archive
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair leaves the Ceremonial funeral of former British Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher at St Paul's Cathedral.

The Government has insisted it will fight a bid to trigger prosecutions of former ministers and senior military figures over alleged war crimes in Iraq.

Two senior ministers in Tony Blair’s government are facing a possible criminal probe over the alleged torture and unlawful killing of hundreds of Iraqis by British soldiers.

A complaint filed with the International Criminal Court (ICC) has accused British forces of abusing and killing detainees in their custody.

The shocking dossier says "those who bear the greatest responsibility" for alleged war crimes "include individuals at the highest levels" of the British Army and political system.

UK military commanders "knew or should have known" that forces under their control "were committing or about to commit war crimes".

The head of the army, General Sir Peter Wall, ex-defence secretary Geoff Hoon, and former defence minister Adam Ingram are among those named in the 250-page dossier, according to the Independent on Sunday.

Human rights lawyers have drawn on the cases of more than 400 Iraqis, arguing they represent "thousands of allegations of mistreatment amounting to war crimes of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment".

They describe incidents ranging from "hooding" prisoners to burning, electric shocks, threats to kill and "cultural and religious humiliation".

Other forms of alleged abuse between 2003 and 2008 include sexual assault, mock executions, and threats of rape, death, and torture.

The formal complaint to the ICC was lodged yesterday 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.

Meanwhile, it argues that "civilian superiors knew or consciously disregarded information at their disposal, which clearly indicated that UK services personnel were committing war crimes in Iraq".

Former Labour leader Blair has not been mentioned in the complaint.

Last night, Phil Shiner, of Public Interest Lawyers, said: "We have got over a thousand cases of torture and about 200 cases of unlawful killings, many of them took place in custody.

"Every way you look at it this points to the very top, and that means Geoff Hoon and others."

However, the Ministry of Defence insisted all the issues had already been examined or were being examined in this country.

"These matters are either under thorough investigation or have been dealt with through various means including through the Iraq Historic Allegations Team, independent public inquiries, the UK and European courts and in Parliament," a spokesman said.

Further action through the ICC was dismissed as "unnecessary".

"We reject the suggestion that the UK's Armed Forces - who operate in line with domestic and international law - have systematically tortured detainees," they added.

William Hague added there had been no "systematic" torture by troops and individual cases had either already been dealt with by the British authorities or were the subject of probes, he insisted.

The Foreign Secretary said there was no need for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate allegations of UK forces abusing and killing detainees in their custody.

PIL is currently acting for more than 1,069 former detainees and surviving relatives who allege that they or their family members were unlawfully detained, tortured, or killed by UK service personnel in Iraq.

It has also been behind attempts to force the Government to hold a wider inquiry into general allegations of unlawful killing and abuse by UK troops.