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ICC weighing war crimes claims

By Earle Gale in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-11-20 10:36
The entrance of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is seen in The Hague March 3, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]

The International Criminal Court is assessing accusations made in a BBC documentary that British soldiers murdered civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan and covered up the crimes.

The documentary, aired on Monday as part of the Panorama series, followed a yearlong investigation in conjunction with the Sunday Times newspaper that culminated in claims that the now-disbanded Iraq Historic Allegations Team, or IHAT, had found evidence of abuse at a British army base in Basra, Iraq. The British government set up the team in 2010 to investigate allegations of abuse and torture by British soldiers in Iraq.

Panorama claimed the abuse took place in 2003 at Camp Stephen, which was under the care of soldiers from Scotland's Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, Royal Regiment. The IHAT probe found soldiers were responsible for the deaths of two men in May 2003.

The IHAT gathered statements from British soldiers and other staff before concluding that the two men found with bags tied over their heads had been tortured before they died. Those documents also allege British soldiers killed children and tortured civilians in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The IHAT report was forwarded to British military prosecutors, who decided this summer not to charge anyone in connection with the incidents.

The BBC reported that Ken Macdonald, who was Britain's civilian director of public prosecutions from 2003 to 2008, said it was "staggering" that no one had been charged based on the collected evidence.

The International Criminal Court, based in The Hague, Netherlands, confirmed it is looking at the claims, which Britain's Ministry of Defense said were unsubstantiated.

A spokesperson for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the BBC the claims were "untrue" and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab noted "all of the allegations, that had evidence, have been looked at".

The Guardian newspaper reported that Shami Chakrabarti, the shadow attorney general, said allegations of murder, torture, and sexual abuse deserved "anxious scrutiny" by the International Criminal Court.

"To cover up abuse only undermines Britain's reputation, military morale, and leaves our own people more vulnerable to abuse by enemy hands in the future," she said.

The Labour Party also wants the government to respond to claims that war crimes were covered up.

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