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High Court: Government didn't handle Iraq abuse case adequately

May 24, 2013 at 3:02 PM   |   Comments

LONDON, May 24 (UPI) -- The British government's handling of allegations that British troops abused and killed Iraqi civilians was inadequate, a court ruled.

Britain's High Court ruled that the Iraq Historic Allegations Team, an investigative team set up by the Ministry of Defense, did not fulfill the United Kingdom's human rights obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, the BBC reported Friday.

IHAT was created to look into allegations of mistreatment against Iraqi civilians by British troops, including sexual abuse, food, water and sleep deprivation, prolonged solitary confinement, mock executions and being denied clothes.

In their ruling, the judges said: "Although we are satisfied... that IHAT has now been structured in such a way that it can independently carry out its investigative and prosecutorial functions, the task of investigating and inquiring into the very large number of deaths occurring at many different times and in different locations requires a new approach if it is to be achieved in a timely, cost-effective and proportionate manner that discharges the very important investigative duties imposed upon the state."

Lawyers representing 180 Iraqi soldiers have called for an inquiry into the IHAT's investigation into the allegations made against British troops. However, the High Court fell short of ordering such an inquiry.

In relation to the abuse allegations, the judges said: "What happened is often unclear and the subject of dispute. Many of the incidents occurred several years ago; the Iraqi witnesses are largely residents of Iraq. Some incidents have been the subject of prosecution and more may be."

After the ruling, a defense spokesman said the ministry was pleased with the court's decision.

"We are also pleased that the court has agreed that the Secretary of State was justified in concluding that a single comprehensive public inquiry into allegations of abuse in Iraq should not be established. This would have led to unnecessary expense and unacceptable delay," the spokesman said.

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