British soldiers could face prosecution at the Hague after the International Criminal Court said there was a ‘reasonable basis’ to believe they committed war crimes in Iraq.
The startling threat of a renewed investigation was buried in a 74-page report on preliminary inquiries as the ICC’s member states gather in New York for its annual nine-day meeting.
Fatou Bensouda, who is chief prosecutor at The Hague, said:
“Following a thorough factual and legal assessment of the information available… there is reasonable basis to believe that members of the UK armed forces committed war crimes, within the jurisdiction of the Court, against persons in their custody”.
Set up in 2002, the Hague-based ICC is an independent court of last resort, only to intervene and prosecute those committing the world’s worst crimes if a member country is unwilling or unable to do so themselves.
The ICC reopened its investigation into allegations of British war crimes in Iraq after lawyers including the now disgraced solicitor Phil Shiner submitted a dossier of evidence in January 2014.
Mr Shiner was earlier this year struck off after a hearing by the solicitors standards watchdog found he acted dishonestly, recklessly and without integrity while bringing false allegations of murder, torture and mistreatment against soldiers at the 2004 Battle of Danny Boy.
The Iraq Historical Allegations Team was shut down earlier this year after an inquiry found it took up 3,500 allegations with little credible evidence.
The Government said its own investigations into the small number of remaining cases would ‘preclude’ any need for an international case.