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UK High Court criticizes Ministry of Defense probe of war crimes allegations

[JURIST] A three-judge panel of the UK High Court [official website] strongly criticized [Guardian report] the Ministry of Defence (MOD) [official website] Friday for its failure to properly setup an independent inquiry into claims that war crimes had been committed by British soldiers following a May 2004 gun battle, known as the "Battle of Danny Boy" [BBC backgrounder], in Southern Iraq. The panel, which was composed of Lord Justice Scott Baker, Justice Silber, and Justice Sweeney, derided the MOD's lack of disclosure of information in the case, saying that MOD's chief witness, deputy head of the Royal Military Police (RMP) [official website] Colonel Dudley Giles, lacked credibility because his actions appeared to have blocked the proper function of the inquiry. The MOD had originally agreed [JURIST report] to set up the independent investigation in July, as the result of allegations [JURIST report] brought by a group of Iraqis who claimed that British soldiers killed as many as 20 detainees and tortured others following the battle. The panel is scheduled to reconvene in two weeks to decide a proper course for the inquiry.

In July, UK Secretary of State for Defence Bob Ainsworth [official profile] admitted to the High Court that the MOD had failed to disclose documents that showed that senior government officials were aware of allegations of torture, mutilation, and murder by British troops at Camp Abu Naji following the battle of Danny Boy, and therefore hindered the ongoing judicial review of an RMP investigation. In April, six Iraqis brought suit [BBC report] alleging mistreatment and illegal killings following the firefight and sought the creation of an independent inquiry into the incident. The MOD initially refused this request and urged reliance on an early RMP investigation [Guardian report], which found no evidence of wrongdoing, saying that the lack of timely complaints by Iraqis discredited the allegations. However, soon thereafter documents were made available by the MOD that showed that the International Committee of the Red Cross [official website] had recorded the complaints within days of the incident.

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