'Hounded' Iraq veterans will prosecute MoD - solicitor

Soldiers who were "hung out to dry" in the aftermath of the Iraq war will take the Ministry of Defence to court, their lawyer has said.

Solicitor Hilary Meredith claimed veterans were being "hounded" by the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (Ihat) despite being sent to a war zone without knowing what to do when the enemy is captured alive.

She made the claims as she announced veterans were pushing on with a judicial review against the MoD, calling for greater support with Ihat, which is examining allegations of UK troops torturing, abusing and murdering Iraqi civilians.

Ms Meredith said the veterans were calling for a fair trial, funding for independent legal advice and an apology for those who allegedly lacked support.

She said: "The MoD stands by and does nothing when individuals are hounded and lives ruined 10 or 20 years after serving in conflict zones away from family and friends with the daily risk of serious injury or death.

"The military on the ground were faced with large numbers of captives with no idea what to do with them or where to put them.

"So whilst British service personnel knew when to shoot under rules of engagement they received no guidance on what to do when arresting, detaining or interrogating someone.

"In the aftermath of Iraq, our servicemen and women have been hung out to dry. It must stop."

Ms Meredith has written to Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon to warn him of the veterans' plan to take the MoD to court.

An MoD spokesman said Sir Michael had recently announced that troops facing allegations of misconduct in Iraq or Afghanistan would receive legal support.

He added: "It is right that our Armed Forces are held to the highest standards but we are taking action to crack down on spurious claims and to increase welfare support."

Ihat faced criticism in September as a "taxpayer money-eating machine" after it emerged costs reached nearly £35 million.

Prime Minister Theresa May announced last month that troops in future conflicts would be protected against "vexatious" claims by the UK opting out of parts of human rights law.