Iraq

More Than 1,000 War Crime Accusations Against British Troops In Iraq Dismissed

The head of the Service Prosecuting Authority said only one case is yet to be resolved.

More than 1,000 war crime accusations tabled against British soldiers in Iraq have been dismissed, the director of the Service Prosecuting Authority (SPA) has said. 

Andrew Cayley said only one case is yet to be resolved, adding it was "quite possible" the accusations will ultimately result in zero prosecutions.

Former lawyer Phil Shiner made more than 1,000 claims involving the British military following the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Law in Action programme, Mr Cayley said independent investigators had since dismissed almost all of those allegations due to the “low level” of offending and a lack of credible evidence.

Mr Shiner was struck off as a solicitor in 2017 after being found guilty of misconduct and dishonesty relating to false abuse claims against British troops.

He also told the programme he was confident no action would be taken in a separate International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into alleged abuses by British soldiers.

“My sense is these matters are coming to a conclusion; (ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda) will close the preliminary examination this year in respect of Iraq and the United Kingdom,” he said.

Solicitor Hilary Meredith, the CEO of Hilary Meredith Solicitors who represented soldiers investigated by the defunct Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), called for a "meaningful, public apology" over the probe.

She said: “At long last, this witch hunt is coming to an end.

"Thousands of lives have been ruined as a result of these false claims."

Nadia O’Mara, campaigns and policy officer at human rights organisation, Liberty, said: "The length of time it’s taken to get to this point is unacceptable.

"There have been serious and credible allegations of wrongdoing in Iraq - yet only a handful of prosecutions have followed, leaving many victims without justice. 

"If ministers are serious about delivering justice for all victims and fairness for soldiers they must reform the system so that serious allegations of abuse are robustly and independently investigated from the outset."

In March, the Government presented a bill designed to "end the cycle of re-investigations" and "vexatious claims" against British troops on overseas operations. 

The bill proposes a five-year time limit on prosecutions of alleged human rights offences committed overseas, in the absence of compelling new evidence.

Cover image: British soldiers in Iraq in 2003 (Picture: PA).