In response to today’s publication of the Iraq Inquiry, Sir John Chilcot’s much-awaited report on the UK’s involvement in the 2003 Iraq war, Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International said:
“In the lead-up to the invasion, Amnesty International urged that the potentially grave consequences of military action be carefully assessed. And on the eve of the U.S.-led invasion we urged full respect for international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
“Tragically, our fears about the safety of the civilian population were well-founded. Thousands of civilians were killed and injured, including in unlawful attacks; millions of people were forced from their homes; and the whole country was thrown into chaos as the occupation forces failed to fulfil their obligation to maintain security.
“While the Chilcot Report did not strictly focus on human rights, any meaningful assessment of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and its aftermath cannot ignore the devastating human rights legacy it has left for millions of Iraqis. The UK and U.S. governments cynically used Saddam Hussein’s appalling human rights record – as documented in Amnesty International reports – to help build public support for going to war. Their conduct during the occupation soon laid bare their hypocrisy in exploiting human rights rhetoric.
“In fact, the subsequent occupation was characterized by widespread human rights violations. Thirteen years on, the invasion’s aftermath has become synonymous with shocking images of torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib, the killing of Baha Mousa in UK custody, spiralling sectarian violence and suicide bombings that have claimed tens of thousands more lives.
“One way of showing that the UK government has tried to learn some of the lessons of Iraq would be for it to ensure that current investigations into allegations of unlawful killing and torture and other ill-treatment at the hands of the UK armed forces in Iraq are truly effective and robust. This must include a proper assessment as to the degree to which human rights violations were systemic and apportion responsibility at all levels, something that has been sorely absent to date.
“Wherever there is sufficient admissible evidence, those suspected of criminal responsibility – no matter their rank or position – must be prosecuted in fair trials, while victims and their families must receive full reparation. The UK must also fully cooperate with the International Criminal Court’s preliminary examination into alleged crimes by UK nationals in Iraq from 2003 to 2008, including murder, torture and other ill-treatment.”