AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on Wednesday said she was dropping a preliminary probe into alleged war crimes by British troops in Iraq, even though she found a reasonable basis to believe they committed atrocities.
The probe never rose to the level of a full investigation and Fatou Bensouda’s office concluded that British authorities had examined the allegations.
The ICC only intervenes when it finds that a state is unable or unwilling to take action against alleged atrocities.
In a final report, Bensouda wrote that her office had found a reasonable basis to believe that in 2003 British soldiers in Iraq carried out the war crime of willful killing or murder against at least seven Iraqi detainees. They also believed there were credible allegations of torture and rape.
“The preliminary examination has found that there is a reasonable basis to believe that various forms of abuse were committed by members of UK armed forces against Iraqi civilians in detention,” it said.
However, the United Kingdom had taken genuine action to investigate the crimes itself, prosecutors found.
In June, British independent investigators looking into allegations of war crimes committed in Iraq told the BBC that of the thousands of complaints they had investigated all but one had been dismissed.
Despite this outcome, which Bensouda said deprived the victims of justice, the ICC prosecutor concluded that British authorities had not been unwilling to carry out investigations or prosecutions and closed the ICC probe.
The ICC has been under fire by Washington for opening a full-fledged investigation into war crimes allegedly committed by U.S. troops on the territory of ICC member Afghanistan. The government of President Donald Trump this year imposed sanctions on Bensouda because of the probe.
Last month, a report by Australian authorities said the country’s special forces allegedly killed 39 unarmed prisoners and civilians in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016, leading other countries to re-examine the conduct of their troops.
Australia said 19 current and former soldiers would be referred for potential criminal prosecution.
Reporting by Anthony Deutsch and Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Alex Richardson and Tom Brown
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