Prosecuting soldiers for Iraq crimes ‘may blunt extremism appeal’

A DECISION to prosecute British soldiers for war crimes in Iraq could “blunt” the appeal of Islamic extremism, it was claimed.

The perception that British forces are not above the law may help to stem the recruitment by radical factions of Muslims angry about the war.

Inayat Bunglawala, spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Britain, welcomed the decision by the Army Prosecuting Authority to prosecute.

The Queen’s Lancashire Regiment soldiers are among 11 servicemen facing charges over two separate incidents in Basra two years ago.

Corporal Donald Payne, Lance Corporal Wayne Crowcroft and Private Darren Fallon are said to have treated detainees inhumanely.

Payne also faces a manslaughter charge over the death of one of those held, Baha Da’oud Salim Mousa.

Mr Bunglawala said “Indirectly, this may help blunt the ability of extremists to exploit the Iraq war.

“These are very serious allegations and it is vital that they are investigated and if our soldiers have committed these offences, they ought to be disciplined and punished.

“It sends a signal to other British soldiers that this type of behaviour will not be tolerated but also to the Iraqi people and the wider Muslim world that we are not in Iraq to excuse our own crimes.”

“There is disenchantment over the Iraq war and a tiny group of extremists have been using the Iraq war as a window of opportunity to gain more recruits.”

These groups had criticised moderate organisations such as the Muslim Council of Britain over their backing for democratic means to oppose the Iraq war without success.

However, the regiment at the centre of war crimes allegations hinted at its anger that the soldier who initiated inquiries into the claims is to face a charge.

While stressing that it supported the investigation, the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment said it was “particularly difficult” to learn that Colonel Jorge Mendonca, who was commanding officer at the time, was being charged with negligence.

The case against a number of the regiment’s soldiers relates to incidents in the southern Iraqi city.

In a statement, Brigadier Geoffrey Sheldon, colonel of the regiment, said: “It was Colonel Jorge Mendonca, who, as soon as he learned of Mr Musa’s death, initiated the formal inquiry which has now resulted in these charges being brought. It is therefore particularly difficult for us to learn that Col Mendonca must himself now answer charges as a result.”

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