All remaining investigations into allegations of abuse by British soldiers in Iraq have now ended without any criminal proceedings being initiated.
Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said investigations into the police legacy of the service – which were looking into the claims – have now “officially closed down.”
The SPLI’s job was to investigate claims by Iraqi civilians of serious criminal behavior by the British military.
Since it started, it has evaluated 1,291 charges, Wallace said.
The SPLI was made up of the Royal Navy Police and the Royal Air Force Police.
It took over the investigation in February 2017, after the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) – which was investigating them – was shut down.
The investigations concerned the alleged behavior of the British armed forces in Iraq during the war from 2003 to 2009.
In a written statement In the House of Commons on Tuesday, Wallace said that although 178 charges were formally prosecuted through 55 separate investigations, no soldiers were prosecuted because of the SPLI’s work.
According to the SPLI, in 2019 five people were referred to the military prosecutor, the prosecuting authority of the service, but no charges were brought.
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“The vast majority of the more than 140,000 members of our military who have served in Iraq have done so with honor,” Wallace said in his statement. “Unfortunately, many have been injured or died, with devastating consequences for them and their families.”
He said that while some allegations against British troops were credible, others were not.
The credibility of the allegations was a “significant challenge during the investigation,” he said.
“However, not all allegations and claims were false, otherwise the investigation would not have gone beyond the initial examination and no claims would have been paid.”
The Defense Ministry’s investigation into war crimes allegations will have satisfied few.
The initial investigations, under IHAT, were criticized by lawmakers in 2017 who said they authorized law firms to take cases on an “industrial scale”. One of those lawyers, Phil Shiner, was later found guilty of misconduct.
Veterans and those still serving were overwhelmed by lengthy, costly and often clumsy investigations, even when some had already been cleared of the wrongdoing.
Nor did IHAT satisfy those who believed there were genuine cases to answer.
The Ministry of Defense wanted to show that it was properly investigating the war crimes allegations. But he didn’t want those investigations to be conducted by anyone else.
More importantly, the MoD did not want this to end up in the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
In 2020, the ICC decided not to launch a formal investigation into alleged war crimes committed by British troops in Iraq. But prosecutor Fatou Bensouda still said there was strong evidence that British forces were responsible for numerous war crimes including unlawful killings, torture and rape in Iraq.
In the end, only one soldier was successfully prosecuted for war crimes in Iraq, for the death of the innocent Baha Mousa. And that was even before IHAT was established.
Wallace added: “It is sadly clear, from all the UK investigations, that some shocking and shameful incidents have occurred in Iraq. We acknowledge that there have been four convictions of British military personnel for offenses in Iraq, including aggression offenses. and inhumane treatment.
“The government’s position is clear: we deplore and condemn all these incidents.”
In 2005, three British soldiers who abused Iraqi civilians were jailed and discharged from the disgraced army.
Two years later, a soldier was jailed for a year in connection with the death of Iraqi civilian Baha Mousa in September 2003.
In total, the Ministry of Defense paid over £ 20 million in compensation for abuse claims by Iraqi citizens.
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