UK Defense Minister Michael Fallon says the government is shutting down a contentious seven-year-old investigation into claims of abuse by British forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), which was set up by the UK government in 2010 to investigate allegations of abuse and torture by British soldiers, will close in the summer, Fallon said Friday.
Fallon also said approximately 90 percent of the 675 cases relating to alleged abuse of civilians in Afghanistan will be dismissed and the remaining claims will be investigated by the Royal Navy police.
“This will be a relief for our soldiers who have had allegations hanging over them for too long,” Fallon said in televised remarks.
The decision to close the investigation was made after a parliamentary committee report earlier on Friday claimed that serving and retired UK troops had been subjected to “deeply disturbing” treatment by IHAT.
The report by the Defense Select Committee in the House of Commons said that many allegations of abuse did not have any credible evidence.
The report said IHAT investigators had used “intimidatory tactics” and spied on war veterans.
“IHAT has operated without any regard to its impact on the UK military which has directly harmed their reputation across the world,” the report said.
However, Amnesty International criticized the decision to close the investigation, calling for an independent investigation to be conducted.
“The UK’s military reputation is on the line — any credible allegations of abuses by UK forces in Iraq and Afghanistan should be independently investigated, which must mean by a body that is separate from the military itself,” the rights group said in a statement.
Many of the claims concern physical, sexual and religious abuse during interrogation of suspects.
Former US president George W. Bush, along with strong UK backing, launched the Iraq war in 2003 under false pretexts.
The war resulted in a protracted conflict and the deaths of more than one million Iraqis. It also plunged Iraq into chaos, resulting in years of deadly violence and the rise of terrorist groups like Daesh (ISIL).
The US and UK also invaded Afghanistan in October 2001.