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ICC launches investigation into UK Iraq prisoner abuse claims

The International Criminal Court has reopened a preliminary investigation into claims that UK forces abused detainees in Iraq between 2003 and 2008, 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,” Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement released by the Hague-based ICC.

In January, the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, alongside Birmingham-based Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), filed documents alleging torture.

It was alleged that prisoners had been threatened with rape, death, were sexually assaulted and were additionally forcefully exposed to “pornography and sexual acts between soldiers.”

Alleged systematic abuse committed by members of the UK’s armed forces has been categorically denied by the British government.

“The government completely rejects the allegation that there was systematic abuse carried out by the British armed forces in Iraq,” Attorney General Dominic Grieve told the BBC.

In January, the UK government insisted that it would fight any bids to trigger prosecution stemming from complaints made to the ICC.

Human rights lawyers slammed the activities of British soldiers, saying they had constructed their complaints from the cases of more than 400 Iraqis who, according to them, represent “thousands of allegations of mistreatment amounting to war crimes of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”

“Based on an initial assessment of the information received, the January-10 2014 communication provides further information that was not available to the Office in 2006,” said the ICC statement.

Bensouda is yet to decide whether a comprehensive investigation is to be launched.

In 2006, a previous probe fell at the first hurdle as the chief prosecutor at the time, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, stated there was not enough evidence.

Grieve said that he would fully cooperate with the ICC to illustrate that “British justice is following its proper course.”

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