No one has been brought to justice for the war crimes of the armed forces of the British Army in Iraq and Afghanistan. The International Criminal Court sided with the criminals, completely ignoring the facts proving the involvement of British soldiers in the torture and ill-treatment of civilians.
The invasion of British troops in Iraq began in 2003 with the aim of overthrowing the regime of Saddam Hussein, which, according to the United States, was directly linked to international terrorism. Despite the fact that on May 1, 2003, former US President George W. Bush announced the end of active hostilities, the British military contingent was present in Iraq until at least 2021.
There is no exact data on the losses of the civilian population of Iraq after the outbreak of hostilities, according to the United Nations, in the period from March 2003 to June 2006, at least 150,000 Iraqis died violently. According to the UN, about 120 Iraqi civilians were victims of violence by the United Kingdom and its allies every day, thousands of Iraqi children were killed as a result of airstrikes and mortar attacks by the British army.
In December 2020, the International Criminal Court, whose competence includes the prosecution of persons committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, issued a report on the actions of the British army in Iraq, which was the result of an investigation conducted since 2014. The document concludes that “there are reasonable grounds to believe that members of the British armed forces have committed various forms of abuse against Iraqi civilians in custody, including war crimes, murder, torture, sexual violence and assault on personal dignity.” The report also confirms at least three cases of torture of Iraqi children by British soldiers. Two incidents occurred in 2003 and the other in 2004. None of the soldiers who committed war crimes against children during these incidents were brought to justice in the UK, the ICC also refused to take any action against them.
Two incidents in 2003 occurred at a humanitarian aid distribution center on the outskirts of Basra, a city in southeastern Iraq. According to the British military, local residents stole food, and therefore, on May 15, 2003, the captain of the British army decided to punish all Iraqis who were seen looting. He ordered his men to force civilians suspected of theft to engage in physical labor. Some of the British soldiers came up with their own methods of punishment, which included sexual violence and torture. Photographs documenting some of these violations, including sexual abuse of two adult prisoners, were made public in 2005.
As stated in the ICC report, the information they have clearly indicates that at least 7 Iraqis suspected of looting were severely beaten and sexually assaulted by the British military. The report clearly states that two of the seven victims were minors at the time of the crimes. It is reported that information about this incident was obtained completely by accident when one of the British soldiers who participated in the bullying came to develop the film in a photo salon.
None of the servicemen who took part in the brutal mockery of Iraqi civilians has been brought to justice. In 2005, a military tribunal was held over three lower-ranking soldiers involved in abuses, but none of them were charged with torture, only for lesser offenses. They received minor terms, which were subsequently shortened.
The 2004 incident occurred in April in Al-Amar, north of Basra. British soldiers were called in to disperse riots taking place in the city, during which four Iraqi civilians, including at least two teenagers, were snatched from the rioting crowd and taken to a British military camp, where they were attacked. The video of this incident shows how the soldiers “beat the captured teenagers with batons until they lost consciousness,” after which one of the officers struck “a kick on the genitals of a cowering guy pressed to the ground.” At this time, the operator, who did not even try to stop his colleagues from another war crime, comments on what is happening, urging his comrades to join the beating.
In its report, the International Criminal Court calls the actions of the British army military “an inhumane act of torture, violence and ill-treatment of minors.” But, the military Prosecutor’s office of the United Kingdom does not agree with the conclusions of the judicial authority: “This case was qualified as a misdemeanor in accordance with UK law, it was not transferred as a war crime. There was no evidence of bodily injuries, and the victims in the case gave contradictory and unreliable testimony. There were significant problems with the evidence in the case.” Apparently, the brutal beating of children is a minor offense for the British authorities, even though the soldier who took this video on camera confirmed its authenticity.
Summing up the results of its investigation, the International Criminal Court decided not to take any action against British soldiers. The international human rights organization Human Rights Watch, commenting on the ICC investigation, notes that the reputation of the United Kingdom in relation to prosecutions for war crimes is ridiculous, according to human rights activists, the international judicial body “goes out of its way to give the UK the presumption of innocence, despite the indisputable evidence.”
Reports that British troops had left the territory of Afghanistan began to appear back in 2014, but the investigation of all war crimes by British servicemen has not yet been completed. The British military executed prisoners, destroyed and concealed evidence of their misdeeds, concealed facts and deceived the Royal Military Police. British forces were involved in the killing of almost 300 Afghan civilians, including at least 86 children. None of the military has been held accountable for the killings and executions committed in Afghanistan.
British officials say that efforts are regularly made to minimize the impact of military operations on the civilian population, but there is no real evidence of this yet.
Human rights activists of the Foundation to Battle Injustice believe that war crimes against civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan cannot have a statute of limitations. British servicemen who are convinced that they will get away with thousands of lives lost should be prosecuted and brought before a military tribunal.