British veterans of the Iraq War could face prosecution for crimes including murder, the head of a team examining potential torture and unlawful killing during the conflict has said.
Mark Warwick, who leads the Government-established Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), has told The Independent there are “lots of significant cases” where there is substantial evidence for the Service Prosecuting Authority (SPA) to press charges.
Some of the “serious allegations” being investigated may meet the threshold of a war crime, he added.
As of September 2015, the multimillion-pound inquiry has been in contact with 1,515 potential victims – but 280 of them were allegedly killed in unlawful circumstances.
Mr Warwick, a former police detective, has said members of the Armed Forces could be notified if they will face prosecution by 2019.
He explained: “We would look at the credibility of the allegation in the first instance; and, when we’ve looked at a lot of these extra cases coming to us, some of them are duplicates of cases, some of them we’ve already identified as part of our own investigation process, and some are multiple allegations where we would investigate as a single allegation.”
The official also confirmed that the case of Baha Mousa remains a “live criminal investigation”.
An inquiry found the Iraqi hotel receptionist died after being interrogated by British soldiers, in what was described as an “appalling episode of serious gratuitous violence”.
Even though the inquiry’s caseload is being reviewed “over the next 12 to 18 months”, campaigners are calling for IHAT to work faster, as answers may only emerge 10 years after the war’s 2009 end.
Carla Ferstman, of the human rights charity Redress, told The Independent: “The incredibly slow place at which IHAT is investigating allegations of criminality committed by UK soldiers against Iraqi civilians is wholly unacceptable.
“Things seem to still be moving at a snail’s pace. We call upon the Government to ensure IHAT can, and does, do what it was set up to do, and to do it now. This cannot be a whitewash.”
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “The vast majority of UK service personnel deployed on military operations conduct themselves professionally and in accordance with the law.
“The MoD takes all allegations of abuse or unlawful killing seriously. Where there is sufficient evidence, members of HM Forces can be prosecuted.”