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UK settled 417 Iraq war compensation claims in 2021

Lawyers for claimants welcome settlements as proof that accusations of abuse by British soldiers have merit
British troops, members of 40 Commando, Royal Marines with Iraqi prisoners, after taking the Fao fields on the Fao Peninsula 21 March 2003 (AFP)

The British Minister of Defence (MoD) settled 417 compensation claims by Iraqis in 2021 and paid out millions of pounds to resolve allegations made of abuse by British soldiers.

Tens of thousands of claims have been settled following UK high court rulings that concluded there were breaches of the Geneva Conventions and the Human Rights Act in the wake of the US-led invasion of Iraq and the subsequent occupation of the country, according to the Guardian.

"Whilst the vast majority of UK personnel conducted themselves to the highest standards in Iraq and Afghanistan, we acknowledge that it has been necessary to seek negotiated settlements of outstanding claims in both the Iraq civilian litigation and Afghan civil litigation," the MoD told the Guardian in a statement.

Among the allegations brought by the claimants were assault, cruel and inhumane treatment and arbitrary detention.

Although many of the details of the cases are confidential, though one is thought to involve the death of a 13-year old boy, the precedent for the financial compensation was set by four test cases settled in the high court in 2017, which saw claimants paid a total of £84,000 ($113,380) based on three incidents involving unlawful detention, beatings and hooding, a practice officially banned in 1972.

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In a statement to Middle East Eye, Martyn Day, senior partner at lawfirm Leigh Day, said the settlements undermined attempts by the government to publicly dismiss accusations of abuse.

"The fact that the MoD has now agreed to compensation in so many cases shows how wrong it was for so many politicians to call the claims 'vexatious' and 'spurious,'" he said.

Day, whose firm sued the MoD on behalf of Iraqis claiming mistreatment by British troops, said the claimants should have been able to expect they would be "treated with dignity and respect" by the UK authorities.

"We are pleased for our clients that their claims have now been settled following many years of litigation. The claims were made by a range of Iraqi and Afghan citizens, including a case involving the death of a 13-year-old boy, for damages against the Ministry of Defence for personal injuries, unlawful detention and breaches of the Human Rights Act 1998," he said.

"In addition, the High Court judgment showed that there had been systemic flaws and policy failures, leading to the routine use of unlawful practices that should have been eradicated many years ago. As a result, the lives of many local people were very badly impacted, and that is the reason why the respect of Iraqis and Afghans for our country has been so badly eroded."

The UK government has attempted to bring forward legislation in an attempt to prevent military officials being prosecuted for war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and other conflicts.

However, campaigning from human rights activists forced the government to drop plans to protect soldiers from prosecution in April.

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