LONDON – An investigation by the BBC’s Panorama program and the Sunday Times revealed that the government and the armed forces of the UK were involved in covering up torture and the illegal killing of civilians by UK troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The probe quoted at least 11 British detectives as saying that they found “credible evidence” of war crimes, with insiders insisting that the UK soldiers should have been prosecuted for the killings. The detectives were part of the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) and Operation Northmoor, which investigated war crimes committed by UK forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively.
These criminal inquiry teams were closed before a single soldier was indicted. One IHAT detective was cited by BBC Panorama as saying that “the [UK] Ministry of Defence had no intention of prosecuting any soldier of whatever rank he was unless it was absolutely necessary, and they couldn’t wriggle their way out of it”.
Another detective claimed that the victims of the UK soldiers’ war crimes had been seriously let down, adding, “I use the word ‘disgusting’.And I feel for the families because… they’re not getting justice. How can you hold your head up as a British person?” the detective asked.
One of the cases investigated by IHAT pertained to the shooting of Iraqi policeman Raid al-Mosawi by a British soldier on patrol in Basra in 2003. The policeman was shot in an alleyway as he left his family home. Although al-Mosawi later died from his wounds, military prosecutors have never taken anyone to court in connection with the shooting. The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD), for its part, insisted that its military operations were carried out in full compliance with the law.
“Investigations and decisions to prosecute are rightly independent from the MoD and have involved external oversight and legal advice,” a MoD spokesperson told the BBC, noting that “after careful consideration of referred cases, the independent Service Prosecuting Authority decided not to prosecute”.
“The BBC’s claims have been passed to the Service Police and the Service Prosecuting Authority, who remain open to considering allegations,” the spokesperson added.
The BBC Panorama and the Sunday Times probe come after The Daily Mail reported in mid-May that the UN Committee Against Torture had urged the British government to investigate claims of murder, torture and abuse conducted by UK troops in Iraq.
The panel emphatically voiced the need for an independent public inquiry, strongly urging the UK to “refrain” from bringing in laws granting amnesty to troops who could have been implicated in war crimes. Members of the UN committee stated there was growing concern over the glaring lack of prosecutions for war crimes, including torture, in the wake of probes by the “discredited” Iraq Historic Allegations Team.