Anonymous British soldier

MOD Denies Covering Up Alleged War Crimes In Afghanistan And Iraq

The Ministry of Defence said the allegations are "untrue".

Anonymous British soldier

The Ministry of Defence has denied allegations that it covered up illegal killings by British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A BBC Panorama programme has made the claim.

It says it has seen leaked documents which contain evidence implicating British troops in killing children and the torture of civilians.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) says it may investigate the British military for the first time following the allegations that war crimes had been committed, it has been reported.

An investigation by the BBC and Sunday Times said new evidence had been obtained from inside the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), which investigated alleged war crimes committed by British soldiers in Iraq, and Operation Northmoor, which investigated alleged war crimes in Afghanistan.

The Government closed IHAT and Operation Northmoor in 2017, after Phil Shiner, a solicitor who had taken more than 1,000 cases to IHAT, was struck off from practicing law amid allegations he had paid people in Iraq to find claimants.

But some former IHAT and Operation Northmoor investigators said Mr Shiner's actions were used as an excuse to close down the inquiries.

No case investigated by IHAT or Operation Northmoor led to a prosecution.

An IHAT detective told Panorama: "The Ministry of Defence had no intention of prosecuting any soldier of whatever rank he was unless it was absolutely necessary, and they couldn't wriggle their way out of it."

Soldiers 5 RIFLES 5th Battalion The Rifles Helmand Province Afghanistan DNI
British soldiers in Afghanistan (Picture: MOD).

A Ministry of Defence (MOD) spokesman said: "Allegations that the MOD interfered with investigations or prosecution decisions relating to the conduct of UK forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are untrue.

"Throughout the process the decisions of prosecutors and the investigators have been independent of the MOD and involved external oversight and legal advice."

The MOD said cases were referred to the independent Service Prosecuting Authority (SPA) as a result of investigations in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Cases from Iraq were referred as a result of historic investigations. It is untrue to claim cases investigated under Operation Northmoor in Afghanistan were not acted upon," the spokesman said.

"After careful investigation, overseen by a former chief constable, no Northmoor cases were referred to prosecutors," the spokesman said.

Ministry of Defence building
The Ministry of Defence said the allegations are "untrue" (Picture: PA).

The MOD also said service police undertook extensive investigations into allegations about the conduct of UK forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that the SPA decided not to prosecute any of the cases referred to it.

The spokesman said: "Our military served with great courage and professionalism in Iraq and Afghanistan and we hold them to the highest standards.

"It is Government policy that military operations are conducted in accordance with the Law of Armed Conflict and where allegations are raised, they are investigated.

"The Sunday Times' claims have been passed to the Service Police and the Service Prosecuting Authority who remain open to considering allegations."

Rachel Logan, of Amnesty International UK, described the reports as "deeply troubling", adding: "If true, those responsible for sanctioning and carrying out torture and other war crimes, at all levels, must be held accountable and where appropriate, prosecuted."

Meanwhile, Hilary Meredith, of Hilary Meredith Solicitors which handles compensation claims for injured military personnel, dismissed the allegations as "flawed, baseless and biased" and as an "ongoing witch-hunt against our brave servicemen and women".

Panorama: War Crimes Scandal Exposed will air on BBC One at 9pm on Monday 18 November.