UK soldiers who fought in the Iraq War may face prosecution for war crimes, according to the head of a unit investigating alleged abuses.
Mark Warwick said there were “lots of significant cases” and that discussions would be held over whether they met a war crimes threshold.
Lawyers are continuing to refer alleged abuse cases by soldiers to the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (Ihat).
The Ministry of Defence said it took such allegations “extremely seriously”.
Two public inquiries have already looked at claims against UK troops in Iraq.
Mr Warwick, the former police detective in charge of Ihat, told the Independent the allegations being investigated included ones of murder.
He added: “Over the next 12 to 18 months, we will review all the caseload to better understand the picture and then I think we can say whether 2019 seems realistic.”
The inquiry has considered at least 1,515 possible victims, of whom 280 are alleged to have been unlawfully killed.
He said: “We would look at the credibility of the allegation in the first instance and, when we’ve looked at a lot of these extra cases coming to us, some of them are duplicates of cases, some of them we’ve already identified as part of our own investigation process, and some are multiple allegations, where we would investigate as a single allegation.”
Ihat’s budget of £57.2m runs until the end of 2019 – 16 years after the invasion of Iraq began in 2003.
Carla Ferstman, director of the human rights charity Redress, also told the newspaper that the “incredibly slow pace” of Ihat’s investigations was “wholly unacceptable”.
He added: “Things seem to still be moving at a snail’s pace. We call upon the government to ensure Ihat can, and does, do what it was set up to do, and to do it now. This cannot be a whitewash.”
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defence said most members of the armed forces behaved correctly.
She added: “The vast majority of UK service personnel deployed on military operations conduct themselves professionally and in accordance with the law.
“Where there is sufficient evidence, members of HM Forces can be prosecuted. It is estimated that the Ihat’s work will take until the end of 2019.”
An inquiry into claims of abuse by UK troops in Iraq highlighted the death of 26-year-old hotel workerBaha Mousa, who died in UK military custody in September 2003.
It concluded in September 2011, with inquiry chairman Sir William Gage blaming “corporate failure” at the Ministry of Defence for the use of banned interrogation methods in Iraq.
The Al-Sweady Inquiry, set up in 2009, followed allegations made in judicial review proceedings at the High Court that the human rights of several Iraqis were abused by British troops in the aftermath of a firefight with insurgents near the town of Majar al Kabir.
Inquiry chairman Sir Thayne Forbes said allegations that troops murdered and mutilated Iraqis in custody were “wholly without foundation”. But he did conclude that some of the detention techniques had amounted to mistreatment.
Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.bbc.co.uk