Photo of Ben Wallace, UK Secretary of State for Defence
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has claimed the number of complaints it has received from Iraq relating to unlawful detention and mistreatment by British soldiers is too numerous and that a full disclosure of the sum paid to settle claims would not be possible.
The MoD insists that they cannot provide the full figure as it would take weeks for civil servants to collate all the figures however claim that they are able to provide approximate figures for the thousands of complaints lodged against British troops during their involvement in the 2003 US-led invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq.
This statement comes as British parliament is set to debate a controversial bill, “the Overseas which would provide partial amnesty for troops who have committed serious crimes - including murder and torture - while serving outside the country.
The bill details that there should be “a presumption against prosecution” of British service personal who commit crimes while serving overseas, except in “exceptional” circumstances, and providing five years have elapsed since the time of the offence. It further specifies that sexual offences are exempt from the proposed new law, while murder and torture are not meaning that a British soldier could be tried for rape but not for murder.
Critics of the bill maintain that it would effectively sanction war crimes by British forces. The UK Labour party has argued that it would undermine the country's commitment to a rules-based international order.
Ian Cobain, a British journalist, writes that the decision to not disclose figures has been a reversal of the MoD’s position. Up until late 2016, the department was willing to provide detailed figures for the amount of claims it had received and the payments made by that time. However, since 2017, the number of payments to Iraqi former detainees has rocketed, according to the approximate figures provided to Middle East Eye following an FoI request
The department has further stated that they have paid £19.8m ($26m) in 326 cases brought before the UK courts and a further 1,145 cases, £2.1m ($2.8m) had been paid out by British military officers in Iraq between 2003 and 2009. The payments included £2.8m ($3.7m) that was handed over in one of the few cases widely reported upon in the UK.
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