The UK government and armed forces have been accused of covering up the killing of civilians by British troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
An investigation by BBC Panorama and the Sunday Times has spoken to 11 British detectives who said they found credible evidence of war crimes.
The new evidence has come from inside the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), which investigated alleged war crimes committed by British troops during the occupation of Iraq, and Operation Northmoor, which investigated alleged war crimes in Afghanistan.
Leaks from two government-ordered inquiries into the conduct of troops in the conflicts implicated soldiers in the killing of children and torture of civilians, the investigation found.
The allegations include murders by a soldier from the elite SAS unit, as well as deaths in custody, beatings, torture, and sexual abuse of detainees by members of the Black Watch infantry unit.
former detective said the victims of war crimes had been badly let down: “I use the word disgusting. And I feel for the families because… they’re not getting justice. How can you hold your head up as a British person?”
Panorama has re-examined the evidence in a number of alleged war crimes cases. One such case investigated by IHAT was the shooting of an Iraqi policeman by a British soldier on patrol in Basra in 2003.
A TRUE CASE
Raid al-Mosawi was shot in an alleyway as he left his family home, and later died from his wounds. The incident was investigated at the time by the British soldier’s commanding officer, Maj Christopher Suss-Francksen.
Within 24 hours, Maj Suss-Francksen concluded the shooting was lawful because the Iraqi police officer had fired first and the soldier had acted in self-defence.
His report said another British soldier had seen the shooting and confirmed the Iraqi had fired first.
IHAT detectives spent two years investigating the case and interviewed 80 British soldiers, including the soldier who had supposedly witnessed the shooting. But he told detectives he was not in the alleyway.
In his statement to IHAT, this soldier directly contradicted Maj Suss-Francksen’s report: “This report is inaccurate and gives the impression that I was an eyewitness. This is not true.”
THE MINISTRY OF DEFENCE
“The Ministry of Defence (MoD) had no intention of prosecuting any soldier of whatever rank he was unless it was absolutely necessary, and they couldn’t wriggle their way out of it,” an investigator told the BBC.
The MoD said the allegations were “untrue” and the decisions of prosecutors and investigators were “independent” and involved “external oversight and legal advice”.
Meanwhile, a lawyer who has represented several soldiers investigated by IHAT, dismissed the claims of war crimes as “flawed, baseless and biased”.
Hilary Meredith, chair of Hilary Meredith Solicitors, said the claims were a “witch hunt against our brave servicemen” which “had no credibility whatsoever”.