UK government drops bid to shield soldiers from war crimes prosecutions

Soldier Hidden In Forestsource: Middle East Eye
published: 27 July 2021

The UK government has abandoned attempts to shield members of its armed forces from prosecution for murder and war crimes committed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ministers agreed to amend its deeply controversial Overseas Operations Bill following stiff opposition from members of parliament’s upper house, the Lords.

The initial proposal – to shield soldiers from prosecution for torture or genocide as well as murder and war crimes – had also faced condemnation by human rights groups and retired senior officers. This does not mean that soldiers and ex-soldiers will be prosecuted, however.

Just one British soldier pleaded guilty at court martial to committing a war crime in Iraq, after a Basra hotel receptionist, Baha Mousa, was tortured to death, despite there being video evidence that other soldiers were involved.

Separately, three soldiers were prosecuted and jailed after photographic evidence emerged showing the abuse of prisoners.

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