Iraq War – UK troops unlikely to face criminal trials
Over a month ago
British soldiers who have been accused of committing war crimes in Iraq are unlikely to face criminal prosecution.
Independent investigators were asked to look at thousands of allegations made against the British military following the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
But Andrew Cayley, the Director of the Service Prosecution Authority (SPA), said just one remaining case was being examined, the "low level" of offending and lack of credible evidence had led most cases to be dismissed.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Law in Action programme, Service Prosecution Authority director Mr Andrew Cayley said most of those cases were sifted out at a very early stage because of the lack of credible evidence or because the offending was "at such a very low level".
Former lawyer Phil Shiner and his firm Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) made more than 1,000 claims involving the British military following the invasion of Iraq in 2003. In 2017 Mr Shiner was struck off as a solicitor after a tribunal found him guilty of misconduct and dishonesty relating to false abuse claims against British troops, including ‘cold-calling’ to find potential complainants in Iraq and making payments to alter evidence.
Mr Cayley said seven remaining cases had been referred to the Service Prosecution Authority (SPA), but in six of those cases it was concluded that no charges should be brought.
One case is still being considered, but he admitted that it was now "quite possible" that none of the original allegations will lead to a prosecution.
Mr Cayley told the BBC that he was confident a separate investigation being conducted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague will conclude this year without further action being taken.
In 2014, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda re-opened a preliminary examination of cases involving alleged British abuses in Iraq.
Earlier this year Boris Johnson’s government presented a bill promising to curb historic allegations and tackle what it calls "vexatious claims" against armed forces deployed overseas.
The bill proposes a five-year time limit on prosecutions of alleged human rights offences committed overseas, in the absence of compelling new evidence.
Minister for Defence People and Veterans in the Ministry of Defence and Minister for Veterans’ Affairs minister Johnny Mercer said the bill was introduced "to reduce the uncertainty currently faced by service personnel and veterans in relation to historic allegations" - and aimed to make sure "that we never end up in a situation like this again".