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ICC considers first probe of British military for alleged war crimes

Peter Byrne/PA Wire

By PA Reporter

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

A BBC Panorama programme claims that killings of civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq have been covered up by the state.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) responded that the allegations are unsubstantiated.

Leaked documents allegedly contain evidence implicating British troops in killing children and the torture of civilians.

The recent BBC/Sunday Times investigation said it had obtained new evidence 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 practising law amid allegations that he had paid people in Iraq to find clients.

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 has led to a prosecution.

The ICC said it has taken the accusations "very seriously", according to the BBC.

"The ICC said it would independently assess the BBC's findings and would begin a landmark case if it believed the Government was shielding soldiers from prosecution," the corporation reported on Monday morning.

The ICC has previously concluded it was credible that British troops committed war crimes in Iraq related to the mistreatment of detainees.

The year-long investigation claims to have found evidence of murders by an SAS soldier, as well as deaths in custody, beatings, torture and sexual abuse of detainees by members of the Black Watch.

A senior SAS commander was referred to prosecutors for attempting to pervert the course of justice, the investigation claims.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "Allegations that have been made that the MoD interfered in investigations of the prosecutions are untrue.

"The service police carried out an extensive investigation into allegations about the conduct of forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The independent Service Prosecuting Authority decided not to prosecute any of the cases referred to it."

Shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti said: "These horrific allegations of child murder and prisoner torture and sexual abuse deserve anxious scrutiny by the International Criminal Court.

"Politicians put service personnel in harm's way and have ultimate responsibility for their leadership. 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.

"The Tories cynically use the military as an excuse for attacking human rights laws. Now ministers must answer these serious charges that they mislead the public and stifled war crimes investigations by the Royal Military Police."

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