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News ID: 111236
Publish Date : 11 January 2023 - 21:41

LONDON (Dispatches) -- The British government has been accused of “rank hypocrisy” after it announced it would host a summit to discuss international support for an investigation into alleged war crimes in Ukraine coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.
The London meeting, which is set to take place in March, is being co-hosted by the Dutch government and aims to increase “financial and practical support” for the International Criminal Court, which is based in The Hague.
British Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said: “Russian forces should know they cannot act with impunity and we will back Ukraine until justice is served.”
Dutch Justice Minister Dilan Yesilgoz-Zegerius, who will co-host the meeting with Raab, said: “The reports and images of Russia’s unlawful and unprovoked armed attack on Ukraine are horrific. For us it is crystal clear: these crimes may not go unpunished.”
ICC prosecutor Karim Khan launched an investigation into the situation in Ukraine last March following the breakout of war in February 2022.
The investigation examines alleged war crimes since 2013, covering the long-running conflict involving Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine’s east, Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, and allegations of atrocities committed since the invasion.
The UK’s Ministry of Justice has not confirmed the exact date of the meeting.
But it is scheduled to take place in the same month as the 20th anniversary of British forces’ participation in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, which began on March 19, 2003, prompting criticism by rights groups.
Both British and American
forces have been accused of committing war crimes during the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq, while the invasion was denounced as illegal by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan in 2004.
The Netherlands also supported the war at the time, but a Dutch parliamentary inquiry in 2010 concluded that the invasion had “no basis in international law”.
In 2020, the ICC closed a preliminary investigation into allegations of war crimes by British forces in Iraq but said there was a “reasonable basis to believe that members of the British armed forces committed the war crimes of willful killing, torture, inhuman/cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, and rape and/or other forms of sexual violence”.
In 2019, it was reported that the British army had at times allowed soldiers to shoot unarmed civilians suspected of keeping them under surveillance in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to several former soldiers, those shot included a number of children and teenage boys.
Rights groups said the UK risked being branded as hypocritical over its support for the ICC’s role in investigating alleged atrocities in Ukraine.
Iain Overton, head of Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), told MEE: “The UK government is in danger of engaging in hypocrisy by failing to investigate crimes perpetrated by British soldiers properly.”
Overton highlighted recent British government moves to introduce a five-year time limit on investigations into alleged war crimes by British soldiers, and legislation currently passing through parliament which would grant immunity to members of the British armed forces accused of human rights violations in Northern Ireland.
“Under successive governments, we’ve seen both an attempt to put a time limit on investigations on war crimes by British soldiers and a go-softly approach on investigating crimes in Northern Ireland,” he said.
“Recently, press and AOAV investigations of SAS killings in Afghanistan have instigated a judge-led report, but this is a rarity.”
In December, the British government announced a statutory inquiry into allegations that an SAS unit executed more than 50 civilians in Afghanistan’s Helmand province in 201o and 2011.
Emily Apple, a spokesperson for the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), also raised concerns over the British government’s record on arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which has been accused of committing war crimes during the war in Yemen.
“While it’s good to see the UK government taking war crimes seriously, it’s time it applied the same standards to all war crimes, including those committed by countries it sells arms to. Despite numerous violations of international law, the UK government continues to sell arms to Saudi Arabia to use in its war against Yemen,” Apple told MEE.
“Since the war began, the UK has sold more than £20 billion worth of arms to the Saudi regime, contributing to one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters. Dominic Raab’s commitment to accountability for the atrocities committed in Ukraine is nothing but rank hypocrisy when put in the context of the UK government’s continued support of the arms trade.”

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