The Independent: Devastating dossier on ‘abuse’ by UK forces in Iraq goes to International Criminal Court

16 January 2014 — Wikileaks Press

Public Interest Lawyers takes action at the ICC:

An article by the Independent explains that Public Interest Lawyers and the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights have presented a complaint before the International Criminal Court. This action takes place after a 3 years investigation during which a huge number of testimonies have been collected.

The dossier presented to the court shows that abuses and violence have been perpetrated against Iraqi detainees directly by members of the UK army forces, while they (the detainees) were in custody.

The article says that:

A devastating 250-page dossier, detailing allegations of beatings, electrocution, mock executions and sexual assault, has been presented to the International Criminal Court, and could result in some of Britain’s leading defence figures facing prosecution for “systematic” war crimes.(…)

The damning dossier draws on cases of more than 400 Iraqis, representing “thousands of allegations of mistreatment amounting to war crimes of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”.(…)

The formal complaint to the ICC, lodged yesterday, is the cumulation of several years’ work by Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) and the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR). It calls for an investigation into the alleged war crimes, under Article 15 of the Rome Statute.(…)

The sheer scale and seriousness of the allegations passes the “gravity” threshold to justify an investigation, according to the complaint. It continues “those who bear the greatest responsibility” for alleged war crimes “include individuals at the highest levels” of the British Army and political system. It concludes the evidence “justifies further investigation” into the criminal responsibility “of senior individuals within the UK military and government”. It adds British military commanders “knew or should have known” that forces under their control “were committing or about to commit war crimes”. And “civilian superiors knew or consciously disregarded information at their disposal, which clearly indicated that UK services personnel were committing war crimes in Iraq”.(…)

The article also notes that it is the first time the ICC could accept an action against a western country as since its creation. Until now it has only condemned African countries.

Comments from British officials, including a spokesperson from the MoJ and Foreign Minister William Hague, argue that the action before the ICC is useless because the issue has already been considered by national courts:

“These allegations are either under investigation already or have been dealt with already in a variety of ways, through the historic abuses system that has been established, through public inquiries, through the UK courts or the European courts,” Mr Hague told Sky News.

The article can also be found in  Public Interest Lawyers website; they give an extensive list and links  for Press articles about this issue.

The UK Human Rights blog has also reported this news.

Background: The  Iraq War Logs:

In 2010 WikiLeaks released the Iraq War Logs, 391,832 ‘significant action’ reports from the US Army during the period 1 January 2004 to 31 December 2009. These reports revealed detail of the torture and ill-treatment of Iraqis whilst in detention during the occupation of Iraq by the Western countries of the coalition.

Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers participated at the War Log press conference on  Saturday 23 October 2010  with Julian Assange.  He  announced that the firm would take legal action on behalf of  the Iraqi citizens concerning their abusive treatment  and push for a Public Inquiry on these events.  Torture and abuse was then perpetrated by Iraqi authorities like the Iraqi National Guard (ING) and Iraqi Police Service (IPS), to whom the western army forces had transferred the detainees.

Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) is a law firm based in UK and specialize in the legal cases involving human rights and executive abuse of power at a local, national or international level.

In 2010, they  stated that:

(…)” Article 3 of the ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights ) provides:  “No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”  This is an absolute prohibition on torture and is shored up by the provisions of the United Nations Convention Against Torture (which has as its objective to make effective the absolute prohibition), and the provisions of Geneva Convention III/IV and the International Criminal Court Act 2001 which makes torture a war crime.

Of critical importance to the protection provided for civilians by these international instruments is the duty owed by all states (especially those who are signatories to the ECHR) that they must not, under any circumstances, transfer a person to a state where it is known that they face a “real risk” of torture or ill-treatment.  This is known as the duty of non-refoulement.

The jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights recognizes that the Article 3 ECHR right carries with it a duty to investigate when things go wrong and there are breaches.  Thus it is that if the UK has transferred Iraqi detainees to the Iraqi authorities in breach of the duty of non-refoulement there is now a duty to investigate the full circumstances of all these breaches.

PIL is acting for Iraqi clients who complain that the UK had them in their custody and then transferred them to the Iraqi authorities.” (…)

Further investigation showed that abuses that more directly implicated US or UK army forces were also committed. For example, a direct implication by the US army has been investigated by a team of Guardian journalists in March 2013.

In the past week, Public Interest Lawyers and the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights has presented a 250-page dossier to the International Criminal Court containing details on degrading treatment and torture of over 400 Iraqis by the UK. The dossier is part of a formal complaint calling for an investigation into the aforementioned crimes, and is a follow-up to previous actions by Public Interest Lawyers in light of the documented abuses found in the War Logs.

What is the International Criminal Court?

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is a permanent tribunal created to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The idea of an international tribunal  dedicated to judge war crimes has been discussed within the nations for a long time as the first attempt took place during the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, but it never came to reality. Later, several tribunals were created by the international community, but all were specialized in a precise conflict. The most known of these international tribunals was of course the Nuremberg Tribunal, for the war crimes committed during the second World War. But there was also for example an international tribunal to judge the war crimes in former Yugoslavia during the war from 1991 to 1993.

See more on Wikipedia:

Following years of negotiations, the General Assembly of United Nations convened a conference in Rome in June 1998, with the aim of finalizing a treaty. On 17 July 1998, the” Rome Statute” of the International Criminal Court was adopted and the court created.