Athens Bar files suit against UK over Iraq

The Athens Bar Association, which once sought to prosecute Norton Rose for its presence in Greece, is seeking to file a suit against the UK at the International Criminal Court (ICC). It claims that the UK’s use of forces in Iraq constituted “crimes against humanity and war crimes”.

But international public law experts say the claim is “frivolous” because of the large number of channels the association will have to go through for it to come before the ICC.

The association claims the UK violated the UN Charter, the Geneva Convention, the Hague Convention and the ICC’s statute. It wants to incorporate the US in the claim but cannot because the US is not an ICC signatory.

The ICC statute says referrals can only be made by a sovereign state, an independent prosecutor or the UN Security Council. The association’s case can be brought to the attention of the ICC prosecutor, who has powers to investigate, but the prosecutor cannot launch a complaint without approval from the ICC’s three-judge pre-trial chamber.

Even if the chamber agrees, the prosecutor then has to refer the case to the UK Government. ICC rules state that a case can only be referred to it once all other routes, including appearances of claims before a national court, have been exhausted. After six months the ICC can take steps to ensure that the UK is handling the matter properly, although it could take years before the ICC sanctions a country for failing to do so.