Iraq

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 21st June 2004.

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Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell Labour, Linlithgow 2:30 pm, 21st June 2004

Pursuant to the statement of the Foreign Secretary, 7 June 2004, Hansard, column 31, on Iraq, what reports he has had from the US Administration on their investigation of the attack on 18 to 19 May on the village of Makr-al-Deel.

Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence

United Kingdom operational commanders received an oral briefing from their US counterparts as part of their daily theatre operational situation updates. That briefing was passed by telephone to my office as soon as it was received. The US investigation into the incident is continuing.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell Labour, Linlithgow

Is there a serious intent to establish the truth?

Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence

As I understand it, the United States has set up a thorough investigation into those events. We know some of the facts; we have seen some of them in various media reports that suggested that a wedding was taking place. Equally, I have seen briefing from the United States Government indicating that not only were they attacking a base for the transit of people across the Syrian-Iraqi border but that in the aftermath of the incident they found, for example, not only rifles but rocket-propelled grenades and other items of quite a heavy military kind. Obviously, it is important that we allow their investigation to proceed.

Photo of Paul Keetch Paul Keetch Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, Defence

The allegations about the incident at Makr-al-Deel, as well as US actions over the weekend, and even the fresh allegations in The Guardian today will be seen by Iraqi civilians as the actions of the coalition as a whole. Unless there is a full and impartial investigation, the coalition authority and the case for democracy in Iraq will suffer. British troops are covered by the International Criminal Court but Iraqi and US troops are not. Is it not the best way to reassure Iraqi civilians that all coalition forces, including Iraqi and US forces, should be covered by the ICC?

Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence

The latter point is obviously a matter for the US Government, but I agree with the hon. Gentleman to this extent: it is important that each country conduct thorough and rigorous investigations into such allegations. The hon. Gentleman referred to the story in The Guardian this morning; it covered two pages and I read it in some detail. I hope that he will accept that the headline on the story could just as easily have been, "More False Allegations Against British Troops", because the detail in the story did not particularly bear out the rather lurid headline that The Guardian's editor had chosen. Such issues arise regularly, but I give the hon. Gentleman and the House my assurance that each of them that involves British troops will be thoroughly investigated.