THE HAGUE, May 13 – The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor said Tuesday she has reopened an initial probe into allegations of war crimes committed by British soldiers after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Fatou Bensouda said in a statement from the ICC, based in The Hague, that the initial investigation was reopened after new allegations were submitted.
“The new information… alleges the responsibility of officials of the United Kingdom for war crimes involving systematic detainee abuse in Iraq from 2003 to 2008,” Bensouda said.
Bensouda’s office in early January received documents from the Berlin-based European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights together with the Birmingham-based Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) alleging British involvement in torture, based on interviews with more than 400 Iraqi detainees.
Bensouda is now to decide whether to ask ICC judges permission to launch a full-blown investigation.
The world war crimes court’s previous chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo in 2006 said he would not open a full probe in Iraq because he did not have enough evidence.
“Based on an initial assessment of the information received, the 10 January 2014 communication provides for further information that was not available to the Office in 2006,” the statement said.
The dossier submitted in January by the ECCHR and PIL alleged that Iraqi victims suffered severe physical and psychological abuse at the hands of British forces.
British troops at “military detention facilities and other locations” allegedly used sensory deprivation, prolonged stress positions as well as beatings, burning and electrocution against Iraqi detainees, the dossier said.
Detainees were threatened with rape and death, sexually assaulted and subjected to “forced exposure to pornography and sexual acts between soldiers,” the ECCHR said.
“Between them, these victims make thousands of allegations of mistreatment amounting to war crimes of torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” the ECCHR said.
Those who bear responsibility are “situated at the highest levels, including all the way up the chain of command of the UK army, and implicating former secretaries of state for defence and ministers for the armed forces personnel.”
The rights group said that the British government “has remained unwilling to genuinely investigate and prosecute low-level perpetrators.”