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Call for probe into British abuses in Iraq More than 400 Iraqi prisoners have contacted PIL

BERLIN, Jan 11, (AFP): A German NGO and a British law firm said on Friday that they would ask the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to investigate possible war crimes committed by British soldiers in Iraq between 2003 and 2008. The European Centre for Constitutional Human Rights, based in Berlin, and the Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) firm, based in Birmingham, central England, said in a statement that they had jointly filed a complaint to the ICC.

This called for the “opening of an investigation” into the actions of senior British officials “in particular the former minister of Defence Geoff Hoon and secretary of state, Adam Ingram, for systematic torture and abuse of prisoners in Iraq between 2003 and 2008,” according to the statement. More than 400 Iraqi prisoners have contacted PIL in the past few years, alleging “serious abuse and humiliation” on the part of British soldiers, said the two organisations. “Our legal team has exhausted all legal avenues” to obtain justice in Britain, Phil Shiner, a PIL lawyer said in the statement. A 250-page document was handed over to the ICC, comprising 85 particularly representative cases and more than 2,000 accusations of abuse documented over five years, said the two organisations. A similar complaint to the ICC failed in 2006.

However, “eight years later, it is evident that a thorough investigation was and is remains necessary,” read the joint statement. Serious violations of the Geneva Convention which protects prisoners of war from abuse may constitute a war crime. According to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, which devotes a long article to the issue on Saturday, the British ministry of defence admitted “isolated cases” of abuse by British soldiers in Iraq, but denied anything systemic. An inquiry into the alleged abuse of Iraqi civilians by British soldiers has been called “a shambles” after it interviewed only one victim in the past seven months.

The Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) was set up in November to take statements from around 140 Iraqi civilians who claim they were abused by British soldiers between 2003 and 2009. A high-profile human rights lawyer representing the alleged victims has chided the ‘incompetent’ investigators and said his clients have now refused to co-operate with the inquiry which is expected to cost £7.5 million over the next two years. “It’s been a complete and utter shambles,” Phil Shiner, from Public Interest Lawyers, told the BBC.

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