[JURIST] English Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith [official profile] has told top British military officers that British soldiers will not appear before the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] on war crimes charges. The statement, the government's first assertion that British troops will not be forced to stand trial in front of the new Hague-based international criminal tribunal, comes amidst new allegations of maltreatment of Iraqi detainees by British troops. Britain's Ministry of Defense [official website] said last week that it is investigating [JURIST report] video images published last Sunday in the British News of the World [report; full video] tabloid that show British soldiers beating four young Iraqi men they detained after a street disturbance in southern Iraq in 2004. Several British soldiers have already been arrested in the probe.
A number of British soldiers are already facing court-martial [JURIST report] for other alleged abuses of Iraqis, although charges against seven soldiers in connection with a 2003 incident were dropped [JURIST report] in November. Meanwhile, an investigation into an alleged 2003 "execution" shooting of an unarmed Iraqi in retaliation for the killing of a British officer that has two soldiers facing possible murder charges and one a charge of manslaughter has reportedly been stalled [Times report] by senior military officers.
In December 2005, the House of Lords ruled [JURIST report] that British law forbids UK soldiers in Iraq from subjecting Iraqi prisoners to cruel or degrading treatment while in their custody. Making his statement denying ICC jurisdiction over British troops in war crimes matters, Lord Goldsmith said, "We strongly take the view that no British service personnel will appeal before the ICC as its jurisdiction only applies if a nation is unwilling or unable to investigate [allegations of war crimes]." The Telegraph has more.