Iraq war allegations probe to end

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PA

A £60m probe into allegations against Iraq war veterans will be shut down within months, Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has announced.

The Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) would close in the summer and around 20 remaining cases be given to the Royal Navy Police, he said.

It comes after MPs branded the probe an “unmitigated failure”.

The IHAT was set up in 2010 to look into allegations of abuse from Iraqi civilians against British troops.

The decision to close the team comes after a public inquiry exposed the behaviour of a human rights lawyer in charge of many of the abuse allegation cases.

Phil Shiner, from the now-defunct law firm Public Interest Lawyers, was struck off for misconduct in February.

As a result, IHAT’s caseload would be reduced from 3,000 to 20 cases by the summer, a Ministry of Defence statement said.

“Exposing his [Mr Shiner’s] dishonesty means many more claims he made can now be thrown out and the beginning of the end for IHAT,” said Sir Michael.

“This will be a relief for our soldiers who have had allegations hanging over them for too long. Now we are taking action to stop such abuse of our legal system from happening again.”

‘Almost total disregard’

Earlier on Friday, an MPs’ committee called IHAT an “unstoppable self-perpetuating machine, deaf to the concerns of the armed forces” which must be shut down.

More than 3,500 allegations of abuse had been taken up by team despite many cases not having any credible evidence, said the Defence Committee report.

“Those under investigation have suffered unacceptable stress, have had their lives put on hold, and their careers damaged,” it added.

Conservative MP Johnny Mercer, a former army captain who chairs the committee, said: “Throughout this process there has been an almost total disregard of the welfare of soldiers and their families.

“We need to hold our people in the highest esteem and a repeat of IHAT must never be allowed to happen again.”

The Ministry of Defence must take responsibility for allowing it to happen, he added.

The government said it had been unable to shut down IHAT sooner because the investigations had been under scrutiny by the High Court and the International Criminal Court.

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