April 25, 2001
War crimes by the Iraq leadership may be investigated by Scotland Yard. The BBC has learned that the Attorney General has referred a case to the police about British hostage-taking at the start of the Gulf War. This could eventually lead to a war crimes indictment against the Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein, and his deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz. But it is unlikely that the pair would ever be extradicted for a trial before an international court.
A criminal case would focus on the plight of 4,500 British citizens and thousands of people from other countries who were held hostage in Iraq and Kuwait a decade ago. London-based organization Indict has spent five years compiling evidence of alleged war crimes and brutality by the Iraqi leadership. Its chairwoman Labour MP Ann Clwyd told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that there was a sound case against Saddam Hussein and Tariq Aziz. "Our lawyers tell us that we have got sufficient evidence, more than sufficient evidence, to provide a realistic prospect of conviction of Saddam Hussein and Tariq Aziz on charges of hostage-taking... so we are very optimistic," she said.
'Raped at gunpoint'
A British Airways Stewardess, held for a month, has said her colleague was raped at gunpoint and that she feared for her life on more than one occasion.
The Attorney General, Lord Williams, has said there is not yet sufficient evidence to give his consent for a prosecution to be pursued. But he said that the case merited further inquiry by the police. Human rights campaigners and lawyers say this sends a powerful signal to the rest of the world.
As a head of state, Saddam Hussein has immunity from a criminal prosecution. But Indict argues that Britain's initial decision to strip former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet of immunity for human rights abuses could set a precedent.
Ms Clwyd said: "The deficiency in the Iraqi case is that there is no international tribunal set up by the (UN) Security Council... so in the absence of that we have been collecting the evidence. "We have just three researchers, but over the last 18 months they have collected evidence from all over the world, documentary evidence, video evidence, sworn statements from victims and so on. "We believe that Saddam Hussein and Tariq Aziz in fact are not immune from prosecution."
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