LONDON – Some of the courts-martial planned for British soldiers accused of abusing Iraqi prisoners could be held in Iraq (search) in front of the families of the alleged victims, a senior British official said Wednesday.
Four British soldiers from the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (search) are scheduled to face courts-martial on charges of abusing prisoners in Iraq, and other cases of alleged abuses by British forces are being investigated, the government says.
Martin Howard, the Ministry of Defense's director general of operational policy, also told a House of Commons committee Wednesday that the number of cases under investigation by the Royal Military Police (search) had risen to 79, four more than announced by the government last month.
Howard said that while there was no fixed policy on where the courts-martial should be held, they "would ideally be held close to the scene of the crime." If held in Iraq, such proceedings would have to be conducted at high-security sites, he said.
The deputy chief of defense staff (operations), Maj. Gen. Nick Houghton, told the legislators that it could be difficult to hold the courts-martial in Iraq. But he said some of the judicial officials involved could visit Iraq, or hold related hearings there.
The charges against the four unidentified soldiers facing courts- martial include allegations of forcing Iraqi detainees to engage in sexual activity between themselves.
No date has been set for the trials, which will be held in public, whatever the venue.