Skip to main content

Sir John Chilcot

Chairman of the Committee of Inquiry into Iraq


August 4, 2009


Dear Sir John,

The upcoming inquiry into the Iraq war, announced by Prime Minister Gordon Brown on June 15, provides a crucial forum to investigate the actions of the United Kingdom in Iraq over the last eight years.

We urge you to ensure that human rights issues are treated as critical to the inquiry's scope and remit.  These issues include:

- The allegations of widespread and/or serious abuses committed against Iraqi civilians and detainees by British forces and/or private security outfits contracted to the British government and MNF bodies;

- Abuses attributed to Iraqi security forces established under the supervision of British forces (especially in Basra), and abuses committed by Iraqi authorities against persons handed over to them by British forces.

- The extent to which the United Kingdom has attempted to avoid the application of human rights and other law to its forces in Iraq, especially on the issue of detention.

In particular we urge that the inquiry consider the degree to which the most serious allegations (including unlawful killings, torture or inhuman or degrading treatment), have been addressed by full and public inquiries leading to the identification and prosecution of those responsible including those who gave the orders. This inquiry should also develop recommendations that will reduce the likelihood of human rights abuses by British forces in the future, and when they do occur, ensure they are speedily and independently investigated and where necessary, prosecuted. 

We also urge you to consider the degree to which the United Kingdom has attempted to avoid human rights responsibilities for the actions of its forces in Iraq, in particular by denying that human rights law applies.

We would also express our willingness to assist your inquiry as human rights experts, including the presentation of written or oral evidence on the facts and law concerning human rights violations. Since the start of the war in 2003, Human Rights Watch has been documenting human rights violations committed by various parties in Iraq. Our reports have included an investigation into the conduct of the war by British, American and Iraqi forces, and the failure of British authorities to plan or provide adequate forces after occupying Basra.

We look forward to hearing from you as to how we can help to ensure that your inquiry includes a full and balanced account of the human rights dimension of the conflict.

Yours sincerely,


Clive Baldwin                                                                                                   

Senior Legal Adviser                                                                                   

Human Rights Watch                                                                                   

Tom Porteous

London Director

Human Rights Watch

Your tax deductible gift can help stop human rights violations and save lives around the world.