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UK attorney general to call for review of military prosecutions: newspaper

[JURIST] UK Attorney General Lord Peter Goldsmith [official profile] will call for prosecutors to study whether the British court-martial system is adequate for prosecuting soldiers accused of misconduct in Iraq [JURIST news archive], the Times of London reported Wednesday. The development follows Tuesday's acquittal of three infantrymen [JURIST report] accused of manslaughter in the death of a 15-year-old Iraqi boy who prosecutors said was ordered to swim across a canal, where he drowned. The jury deliberated for only five hours before rendering a verdict, and the court-martial cost £2.5 million (about $4.6 million US). A court-martial acquitted a fourth Guardsman [JURIST report] of related charges last month, and in October seven British paratroopers were found not guilty [JURIST report] of murdering an Iraqi civilian. Goldsmith reportedly wants the prosecutors to identify the acquittals' potential implications for three misconduct cases that are still pending. One, scheduled for trial in September, involves seven members of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment and the Intelligence Corps accused of beating an Iraqi hotel clerk to death [BBC report].

The UK Ministry of Defense [official website] defended the result of the latest court-martial [BBC report] but has acknowledged the need for changes to bring courts-martial in line with the civilian justice system. An Armed Forces Bill [parliamentary materials] before the House of Commons [official website] would establish a separate prosecution authority for each branch of the military, replacing the current consolidated system. The Times has more.

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