Arusha, May 14, 2014 (FH) – International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has decided to reopen a preliminary investigation into alleged war crimes in Iraq. The alleged crimes involve systematic detainee abuse by British forces in Iraq from 2003 to 2008, according to a press release issued Tuesday.

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Previous ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo decided in 2006 after a first preliminary examination not to take further action because the “required gravity threshold of the Rome Statute was not met”. Bensouda’s decision to reopen the preliminary examination comes after new information was submitted to the Prosecutor’s office in January this year. 

Although Iraq is not a State Party to the Rome Statute of the ICC, the Court has jurisdiction over alleged crimes committed on its territory by nationals of States Parties, including the UK.

A preliminary examination should allow the Prosecutor to decide whether or not the criteria to open an investigation have been met.

At a press conference Tuesday in New York, Bensouda stressed that this was only a preliminary examination and not an investigation.

On 10 January 2014, the German organization European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and British-based Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) asked that former UK Defence Minister Geoffrey Hoon and ex-Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram be prosecuted for systematic torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners. They submitted a 250-page document to the ICC citing 85 cases and more than 2,000 allegations of abuse.

The prisoners were allegedly subjected to various interrogation methods including sleep deprivation, beatings and electrocution. They were allegedly also threatened with rape and death, sexually violated, forced to look at pornography and to watch sexual acts by soldiers, according to the new information submitted to the ICC Prosecutor’s office.

London rejects these allegations of systematic abuse.

Serious violations of the Geneva Conventions, which protect prisoners of war, may constitute war crimes.