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Int'l war crimes prosecutor reopens Iraq inquiry

  • Article by: MIKE CORDER
  • Associated Press
  • May 13, 2014 - 10:50 AM

AMSTERDAM — The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has reopened a preliminary investigation into allegations that British soldiers may have committed war crimes by "systematically" abusing prisoners in Iraq from 2003 to 2008.

Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said Tuesday she would review "new information" she received in January alleging that British officials bear responsibility for wrongdoing. An earlier investigation was closed in 2006.

Iraq is not a member of the court but Britain is and British nationals could be prosecuted for crimes committed in Iraq.

Allegations of abuse dogged the six-year British deployment in Iraq, which ended in 2009. The most infamous was the case of hotel receptionist Baha Mousa, whose death in a detention facility outside the city of Basra led to the first conviction of a British soldier under international war crimes legislation.

Bensouda is obligated to examine allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity and grave humanitarian abuses that are directed to her office. She said she would consider questions of admissibility and jurisdiction before deciding whether to open a formal investigation.

War crimes cases at the ICC are not considered admissible at the Hague-based court if a country can prove it is prosecuting them itself.

British Attorney General Dominic Grieve said the government "completely rejects the allegation that there was systematic abuse carried out by the British armed forces in Iraq."

He said that where allegations have been made that British forces broke national or international law they are investigated by independent panels.

"I have seen the work of these inquiry teams myself and they are independent, robust and meticulous, with the resources they need to do the job properly and it is my job to make sure that continues to be the case," Grieve said.

He added that the British government "has been, and remains a strong supporter of the ICC and I will provide the office of the prosecutor with whatever is necessary to demonstrate that British justice is following its proper course."

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Associated Press writer Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report.

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