Nearly 60 Iraq killings claims against UK soldiers dropped

UK troops and a military helicopter Image copyright PA

Investigations into nearly 60 allegations of unlawful killing against UK soldiers in Iraq have been dropped, the Ministry of Defence says.

The Iraq Historic Allegations Team (Ihat) has decided not to proceed in 57 cases, the MoD said.

A further case was stopped by the military's prosecuting authority.

The news follows a call by PM David Cameron to "stamp out" what he called "spurious" legal claims against British troops returning from action overseas.

Ministers had been asked to draw up plans to curb claims, including by restricting "no win, no fee" arrangements, Mr Cameron said.

Lawyers say no-one is above the law, and many abuse cases have been proven.

Ihat was set up to review and investigate allegations of abuse made by Iraqi civilians against UK armed forces personnel in Iraq during the period of 2003 to July 2009.

It currently lists more than 1,300 allegations under investigation, ranging from murder to low-level violence - some 280 of those are allegations of unlawful killing.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Baha Mousa, seen here with his family, was a 26-year-old hotel receptionist who died in British military custody in 2003

Conservative MP Richard Benyon, a member of the Commons Defence select committee, said innocent veterans were being unfairly targeted.

He told The Sun: "It's an intolerable burden for people who have served their country well to face this knowing they're innocent."

But the Army's former chief legal adviser in Iraq, Lt Col Nicholas Mercer, has criticised plans to crackdown on legal claims against Iraq veterans, saying it was wrong "simply to polarise it as money-grabbing lawyers".

"The government have paid out £20m for 326 cases to date. Anyone who has fought the MoD knows that they don't pay out for nothing," he told the BBC's Today programme on Friday.

In 2011, an inquiry into claims of abuse highlighted the death of hotel worker Baha Mousa with 93 injuries in British military custody, and blamed "corporate failure" at the Ministry of Defence for the use of banned interrogation methods in Iraq.

However, the £31m Al-Sweady inquiry, found in December 2014 that allegations that UK troops had murdered and mutilated Iraqi detainees after a 2004 battle were "deliberate lies".

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