The lawyers who headed the abuse claims made by Iraqi soldiers have refused to apologise for the turmoil they brought on the accused and the huge cost to the British tax payer.
Following a six year, £31million investigation, the Al Sweady Inquiry found that accusations of war crimes made in 2008 were “entirely the product of deliberate lies, reckless speculation and ingrained hostility”.
The foundation of the claim against soldiers was that 20 or more Iraqis were unlawfully killed and mutilated after the Battle of Danny Boy in May 2004.
International Law states that any prisoners of war must be kept in humane conditions and not subject to torture. In both HERRICK and TELIC operations, injured opposition troops are even given medical treatment by Allied forces alongside their own colleagues, something the soldiers do without question.
After the men were cleared, The Defence Secretary Michael Fallon called on the lawyers to apologise.
“The inquiry has utterly rejected all claims of murder and torture as deliberate and calculated lies” he said.
“This is unsurprising as we have long said there was no credible evidence to back up these claims. Regrettably a public inquiry was necessary to put to rest false allegations that were championed by two law firms at great expense to the taxpayer.”
“Had this inquiry been conducted quicker and more effectively, as it should have been, a huge amount of time and public money could have been saved,” he said.
“I fully accept, as I’ve said before, that it has been a great strain for them. It has been a great strain for everybody involved.
“I very much regret it but I think and apology would apply a fault – and I do not accept this form was at fault.”
The two solicitors’ firms involved – Public Interest Lawyers and Leigh, Day & Co – have been investigated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
This is not the first public inquiry which Public Interest Lawyers has brought about. They also claim credit for three cases which were subsequently heard in the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, the Al-Skeini case where they tried to impose jurisdiction of the ECHR in a field of combat, Al-Jedda and Hasan.
PIL made £900,000 in legal aid from representing the Iraqis who have been found to have systematically lied and colluded with each other.
The inquiry was launched in 2009 by then Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth, who suggested to the Birmingham Mail that Britain’s legal systems had been “systematically abused”.
“I commissioned this report only after the department was very heavily criticised in the courts for having failed to investigate properly the allegations that were being made” he said.
“I believe then, as I believe now, that the main reason for that failure wasn’t a lack of will on our part but a refusal to co-operate with an inquiry by the representatives of the Iraqis, Public Interest Lawyers, and Mr Phil Shiner.
“I have no way of knowing or proving what the motives were for that lack of cooperation but I do know Public Interest Lawyers have a very lucrative business model.”
Phil Shiner, Head of Public Interest Lawyers, has made his name and his fortune on cases such as these. According to Richard Littlejohn, he has secured £3 million in compensation for his clients who are largely foreign nationals alleging abuse by British troops. He is, in his own words a ‘committed socialist’ and Honourary Vice President of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers.