LONDON, United Kingdom - Britain has paid out £14 million ($22.7 million) to Iraqis who accuse British troops of illegally detaining and torturing them following the 2003 invasion, the Ministry of Defence said Thursday, December 20.
The ministry confirmed a report in the Guardian newspaper which revealed that the government had paid compensation to 205 complainants over the last five years, with more than 700 claims expected to be lodged next year.
Some £8.3 million was paid to 162 Iraqis this year with the average settlement being almost £70,000 plus costs.
The claims stem back to the five-year occupation of the south-east of the country and have mostly been brought by male civilians who claim they were beaten, threatened and deprived of sleep before being interrogated by British troops.
The MoD confirmed the payouts but defended Britain's record in Iraq.
"Over 120,000 British troops have served in Iraq and the vast majority have conducted themselves with the highest standards of integrity and professionalism," said a spokesman.
"All allegations of abuse will always be investigated thoroughly. We will compensate victims of abuse where it is right to do so and seek to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice."
The MoD in 2010 set up the the Iraq Historical Allegations Team (Ihat), which is examining the possibility of criminal charges related to the abuse allegations.
Ihat has paid particular attention to the actions of a military intelligence unit called the Joint Forward Interrogation Team (Jfit).
Jfit interrogators filmed themselves threatening and abusing detainees, who appeared in footage to be bruised too tired to stand up.
Ihat referred three soldiers to the Service Prosecuting Authority but prosecutors judged that that the incidents did not warrant war-crimes charges.
They ruled that one interrogator had committed offences, but that they were "in accordance with the training that they had been given" and warned against prosecution.
A former Jfit guard told the Guardian that he was ordered to drag blindfolded prisoners around assault courses where they could not be filmed.
A judicial review will be heard next month over the MoD's decision not to hold a public inquiry.
Human rights lawyer Lutz Oette said the payments "provide a long overdue measure of redress".
"However, for the victims compensation without truth and accountability is a heavy price to pay," she added. "For justice to be done there is a need for a full independent inquiry to establish what happened and who is responsible. - Agence France-Presse
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