Thousands of Iraqis have been given payouts after suffering at the hands of British soldiers but the British Ministry of Defence says it cannot disclose how much it has paid out since 2017 because it requires too much work.

The British Ministry of Defence has received so many complaints of abuse by its soldiers from Iraqis that it can no longer keep track of the compensation it has paid out.

Thousands of Iraqis have filed claims in British and Iraqi courts alleging they were victims of human rights violations by British soldiers, including torture.

As of 2017, a boom in allegations meant that the ministry could no longer keep track of how much it had given out.

In response to a freedom of information request sent to the ministry by the London-based Middle East Eye, officials said it would take hundreds of hours to check through its records and collate the sums handed out to Iraqis.

Since the records of payouts stopped, the UK has faced 1,200 claims in British courts and more than 3,200 in Iraqi ones.

According to ITV News, 1,471 claims brought by Iraqis between 2003 and 2017, were settled for a total amount of close to 22 million British pounds ($29m).

Britain was the second largest contributor to the US-led force that conquered Iraq and toppled the government of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

After the dissolution of the Iraqi army by the occupying authorities, British forces took part in the subsequent occupation of Iraq, which lasted until 2011.

British forces were largely stationed in the south of the country, in and around bases in the city of Basra.

While they escaped the worst of the resistance campaign in central Iraq, they nevertheless faced an insurgent campaign involving Shia militias.

British forces were long accused of torturous practices against locals but media coverage except in a few cases was muted.

In 2016, a government commissioned inquiry warned around 300 soldiers that they had been implicated in crimes including torture, murder, and abuse. Investigators found 3,400 instances of murder and ill treatment.

Baha Mousa

One of the most infamous instances of criminality by British soldiers was the torture and murder of 26-year-old Baha Mousa in 2003.

He was arrested at a hotel with nine other Iraqis and subsequently detained in a temporary facility by British troops who tortured him until he died.

Medical examiners found that the young Iraqi had been asphyxiated and had at least 93 injuries on his body.

A fellow detainee recalled that British soldiers had played sadistic games using the hooded prisoners including seeing how far each one could be kicked.

Mousa’s family were compensated but of the seven soldiers court martialed, six were cleared of abuse.

The one soldier who admitted his role in Mousa’s torture, Donald Payne, was jailed for a year and dismissed from the army.

Change?

Any hope that the British armed forces had learned from the controversy surrounding the abuse of Iraqis have been short lived, as more allegations of abuse have come to light.

Earlier this year, British outlets reported on concerns raised by British officers that members of the UK’s elite special forces units had employed a policy of killing unarmed civilians.

Instead of ensuring such abuses are not repeated, British lawmakers are trying to pass legislation making it harder for prosecutors to convict suspected British war criminals.

The Overseas Operations Bill would set a five year limit from the date of an offence for prosecutors to bring a case to trial barring “exceptional” circumstances.

Former British field marshal, Charles Guthrie, said the law would allow “de facto decriminalisation of torture” and would “stain” Britiain’s global reputation.

Estimates of the total death toll in Iraq vary considerably but lie at around 600,000 on average

The number includes over 6,000 soldiers and private military contractors working for the US-led invasion and occupying force. The UK lost 179 soldiers during the invasion of Iraq and subsequent occupation.

Most of the deaths were Iraqi civilians, killed in US or allied airstrikes, or by sectarian militias or terrorist groups, such as Al Qaeda.

Source: TRT World