ICC prosecutor drops inquiry into alleged UK war crimes in Iraq

Court is under fire from Washington for opening investigation into accusations of war crimes by US troops in Afghanistan

FILE PHOTO: Public Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda attends the trial of Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda at the ICC (International Criminal Court) in the Hague, the Netherlands August 28, 2018.  Bas Czerwinski/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

Fatou Bensouda, the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, on Wednesday said she was dropping a preliminary inquiry into alleged war crimes by British troops in Iraq, despite finding reasonable basis to believe they occurred.

Ms Bensouda wrote that her office found a reasonable basis to believe that in 2003 British soldiers in Iraq carried out the war crime of wilful killing or murder against at least seven detained Iraqis.

It also believed there were credible allegations of torture and rape between that year and 2008.

“The preliminary examination has found that there is a reasonable basis to believe that various forms of abuse were committed by members of UK armed forces against Iraqi civilians in detention,” her statement said.

It never became a full investigation and the prosecutor’s office concluded that British authorities had examined the accusations.

In June, British independent investigators considering allegations of war crimes committed in Iraq told the BBC that of the thousands of complaints they had investigated, all but one had been dismissed.

Despite this outcome, which Ms Bensouda said deprived the victims of justice, she concluded that British authorities had not been unwilling to carry out investigations or prosecutions and closed the ICC inquiry.

The ICC is under fire from Washington for opening a full-fledged investigation into war crimes allegedly committed by US troops on the territory of ICC member Afghanistan.

The government of President Donald Trump this year imposed sanctions on Ms Bensouda because of the investigation.

Last month, a report by Australian authorities said the country’s special forces allegedly killed 39 unarmed prisoners and civilians in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016, leading other countries to re-examine the conduct of their troops.

Australia said 19 current and former soldiers could be referred for criminal prosecution.