Hilary Meredith, has written to Secretary of State for Defence, Michel Fallon, to issue notice that soldiers hounded over incidents in the Iraq War are pressing ahead with plans to take the Ministry of Defence to court over the behaviour of the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT).
Meredith will be helping bring a Judicial Review to put in place a framework of support for service personnel and veterans facing judicial process. The framework includes a formal apology for failing to support those accused of abuse of Iraqi civilians in Iraq during the period of 2003 to July 2009.
Meredith provided evidence at the Defence Sub Committee’s inquiry into the support offered by the Ministry of Defence to former and serving military personnel who are subject to judicial process.
At the inquiry, MPs heard how investigators from IHAT are turning up on family doorsteps and at barracks’ gates demanding information or threatening arrest.
In one incident they appeared at an ex-girlfriend’s house and interviewed her on whether her former partner had tattoos, was abusive or talked in his sleep. In another, they turned up at a barracks and threatened to arrest an officer despite the fact that he was acquitted by an internal probe ten years earlier.
Even witnesses have been threatened with arrest, and Meredith has said that the probe into alleged Iraq War wrongdoing has got “completely out of hand”.
Meredith is calling on the Ministry of Defence to guarantee the right to a framework of help and support for serving and ex-military personnel to include welfare and medical support as well as the right to independent legal advice. She is also asking for the right for funding for such advice, the right to a fair trial and time limits be imposed on cases.
It has also been revealed that the recruitment company that employs private investigators to probe the conduct of British troops in Iraq has been received more than £20 million in taxpayers’ money.
Mike Penning, the armed forces minister, said in a parliamentary written answer that Red Snapper Recruitment had been paid £20.8 million since winning the contract to provide staff for IHAT in 2013.
Meredith said: “The hounding of British troops is a disgrace and the cost to the taxpayer has got totally out of hand.
“There is only one culprit in this and it is the Ministry of Defence – yet it is smugly aware that it is immune from any prosecution itself.
“The MoD stands by and does nothing when individuals are hounded and lives ruined ten or twenty years after serving in conflict zones away from family and friends with the daily risk of serious injury or death.
“Many of these issues and the reasons why this is happening were highlighted in the 2008 Aitken Report – an Investigation into Cases of Deliberate Abuse and Unlawful Killing in Iraq in 2003 and 2004. The MoD, whilst giving guidance on rules of combat, the Geneva convention and rules of engagement completely forgot to provide advice on what to do if they enemy were captured alive.
“It underestimated the complete lack of law and order in Iraq with no courts, police force or prisons. The military on the ground were faced with large numbers of captives with no idea what to do with them or where to put them.
“So whilst British service personnel knew when to shoot under rules of engagement they received no guidance on what to do when arresting, detaining or interrogating someone.
“In the aftermath of Iraq, our servicemen and women have been hung out to dry. It must stop.”