William Hague has dismissed a bid to trigger prosecutions of British politicians and senior military figures over alleged war crimes in Iraq.
The foreign secretary said there was no need for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate allegations of British forces abusing and killing detainees in their custody. 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 head of the army, General Sir Peter Wall, ex-defence secretary Geoff Hoon, and former defence minister Adam Ingram are among those named in a 250-page dossier sent to the ICC, 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.
The 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.
It also argues that “civilian superiors knew or consciously disregarded information at their disposal, which clearly indicated that British services personnel were committing war crimes in Iraq”.
Former foreign secretary Jack Straw said he was surprised about the allegations as they were not included in the inquiry led by Peter Gibson into treatment of detainees, which published a report last month.
The Labour MP told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “I have not seen the dossier, it’s the first I knew about it when I too read about it I think in the Independent on Sunday.”
Lawyers at the Berlin-based ECCHR have been litigating against American military and civilian officials over alleged illegal interrogation policies on behalf of Iraqi and Guantanamo detainees who suffered torture and other crimes while in US detention.
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 British service personnel in Iraq.
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