Middle East

U.K. dismisses complaint to ICC over Iraq abuse

File - Former British prime minister Tony Blair leaves after addressing delegates at the Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) fourth annual conference in central London on November 5, 2012. (AFP PHOTO/JUSTIN TALLIS)

LONDON: Britain said Sunday it was already dealing with cases of alleged abuse by its troops in Iraq after human rights lawyers sent a file to the International Criminal Court.

The Defense Ministry said action through the ICC in The Hague was unnecessary because the cases were either already under investigation or had been dealt with through various courts and processes.

Lawyers have drawn on the cases of more than 400 Iraqis, dating from 2003 to 2008, arguing that 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 head of the army, Gen. Sir Peter Wall, ex-Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon, and former Junior Defense Minister Adam Ingram are among those named in the 250-page dossier, according to the Independent on Sunday newspaper.

The Defense Ministry said it rejected the suggestion that the British military systematically tortured detainees, but said the government regrets the “small number of cases where abuses have taken place.”

“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 U.K. and European courts and in Parliament,” a spokeswoman said.

“As such, further action through the ICC is unnecessary when the issues and allegations are already known to the U.K. government, action is in hand and the U.K. courts have already issued judgements.

“Should we be approached by the ICC, we will take the opportunity to explain the very extensive work underway to deal with historic allegations of abuse.

“Wherever allegations have been substantiated, we have compensated victims and their families.”

The formal complaint to the ICC was lodged Saturday by Birmingham-based Public Interest Lawyers and the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights.

It calls for an investigation into the alleged war crimes under Article 15 of the Rome Statute.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 13, 2014, on page 9.




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