All investigations into the war crimes and abuses committed by British soldiers in Iraq have now been closed, without resulting in any prosecutions.
The Service Police Legacy Investigations (SPLI), which was staffed by Royal Navy Police and Royal Air Force Police, has investigated the claims by Iraqi civilians of British soldiers’ serious criminal behaviour which are alleged to have taken place from 2003 during the US-led invasion, until 2009.
Formerly being investigated by the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), before it was closed down, a total of 1,291 allegations into the abuse of Iraqi civilians were then taken up by the SPLI in 2017.
This week, however, British Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, announced that SPLI has also “officially closed its doors,” with not one prosecution being made as a result of the allegations.
Writing in a statement to the House of Commons yesterday, Wallace said that judging the credibility of the claims had been a “significant challenge throughout the investigations.” He insisted that, while some were true, others were not and had insufficient evidence to back them up.
The Defence Secretary revealed that, out of the vast number of allegations made, 55 separate investigations formally pursued a total of 178 of those allegations, with no members of the British forces having been prosecuted.
“However not all allegations and claims were spurious,” he acknowledged, “otherwise investigations would not have proceeded beyond initial examination and no claims for compensation would have been paid.”
Despite the lack of convictions, over £20 million in compensation settlements over Iraqi civilians’ claims of abuse were paid out by the Ministry of Defence.
Wallace stated that it was clear that “some shocking and shameful incidents did happen in Iraq. We recognise that there were four convictions of UK military personnel for offences in Iraq, including offences of assault and inhuman treatment.”
He stressed that the British government’s position “is clear—we deplore and condemn all such incidents,” but was firm on his stance that “The vast majority of the more than 140,000 members of our armed forces who served in Iraq did so honourably.”
In 2017, the UK’s High Court ruled that British forces violated the Geneva Conventions during their military presence in Iraq, by regularly abusing civilians and detainees.
Two years later, in 2019, it was revealed that the British government and military attempted to cover up war crimes committed in Iraq, and that they had no intention of prosecuting any soldier. Following that revelation, the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced the possibility of investigating that cover-up.