Three British soldiers investigated for alleged Iraqi abuse
Three British soldiers have been referred to the country's senior military prosecutor over allegations that they abused Iraqi detainees, the High Court heard Tuesday.
If the prosecutor uncovers evidence of wrongdoing it is possible that the three could face war crimes charges.
"We have acknowledged that if these allegations do prove to be true then they could be prosecuted as war crimes under the ICC," a Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesman said.
"That is why we have set up the Iraq Historical Allegations Team (IHAT) to investigate allegations thoroughly."
The referrals were disclosed in court by Philip Havers, a lawyer representing Defence Secretary Liam Fox in an appeal brought by more than 200 Iraqi civilians who claim they were abused by British soldiers.
The Iraqis are asking two senior judges to rule whether there should be a public inquiry to establish the truth about claims that detainees were abused at British controlled facilities between March 2003 and December 2008.
The MoD claims that the creation of the IHAT would render an inquiry unnecessary and expensive.
The court was earlier shown official military footage of British armed forces personnel swearing loudly and threatening a detainee who was also forced to wear goggles and earmuffs to deprive him of his sight and hearing.
Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), who are representing the Iraqis, won permission to bring the case to the High Court in July after Fox refused to open an inquiry.
PIL lawyer Phil Shiner described the announcement of the referrals as "a breakthrough."
"There are remarkable similarities between everything that we know that the Americans did in Abu Ghraib and what we know from the evidence in this court," Shiner added.
"There are very few things that the Americans were doing in Abu Ghraib that the British were not doing."
© 2010 AFP