Investigations into as many as 57 alleged unlawful killings by British soldiers in Iraq, have been dropped.
The cases won’t be followed up as “no criminality” had been established during the investigation, the UK’s Ministry of Defence has announced.
The MoD said that the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (Ihat) tasked with investigating the alleged abuses by UK soldiers during the US-led invasion in Iraq, has decided not to proceed in 57 cases.
The military’s prosecuting authority has also dropped another case of alleged human rights violations.
The decision follows a call by Prime Minister David Cameron to “stamp out” what he called “spurious” legal claims against British troops returning from action overseas.
He demanded that returning soldiers be protected from “being hounded by lawyers over claims that are totally without foundation.”
Cameron has tasked the National Security Council with finding a way to clamp down on lawyers exploiting a “no win, no fee” system that may soon be banned while the government’s investigative powers may get a boost.
However, some lawyers argue that every person must obey the law and many cases of abuse have actually been proven while the Prime Minister noted that the “industry” is merely trying to make a profit out of servicemen.
The army’s former chief legal adviser in Iraq, Nicholas Mercer, said that the fact that British taxpayers had already paid out almost £20mn ($29mn) in compensations to settle hundreds of cases of abuses and violations against Iraqi civilians shows that the problem is widespread.
“Clearly this isn’t just one or two bad apples, as they have been characterized, this is on a fairly large and substantial scale,” Mercer told Channel 4 news, accusing the UK government of “hijacking” the situation to stop lawyers from bringing up additional cases.
The Iraq Historic Allegation team has been set up to investigate allegations of abuse of Iraqi civilians by UK armed forces personnel during the period they were deployed in Iraq from 2003 to July 2009.
More than 1,000 allegations ranging from murder to rapes to low-level violence are currently under investigation. IHAT is separated from the military in order to stay impartial in its investigation that is due to be finished by the end of 2019.