British authorities say they will investigate allegations brought against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein by a London-based group researching alleged war crimes of the Iraqi government. The allegations charge the Iraq administration with taking more than 4,500 British citizens hostage during its 1990 invasion and occupation of Kuwait.
The London-based group, known as Indict, has provided evidence to British authorities alleging Saddam Hussein's government held several-thousand British citizens and other foreign nationals hostage before and during the 1991 Gulf War.
The group also charges that hundreds of those held in Iraq and Kuwait against their will were used as human shields to prevent attacks by a U.S.-led international coalition of forces. The case specifically targets President Saddam Hussein and Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz.
A leading British human rights activist, Ann Clwyd, who heads Indict, says a team of three researchers collected the evidence during the past 18 months. "They have collected evidence from all over the world," she said, "documentary evidence, video evidence, sworn statements from victims and so on."
Britain's attorney general voices doubts there is enough evidence at this point to prosecute but he has asked Scotland Yard to investigate.
Miss Clwyd insists there is enough evidence to prosecute Saddam Hussein. She also dismisses suggestions that, as a head of state, he would be immune from prosecution. "Our lawyers tell us we have sufficient evidence and we believe that Saddam Hussein and Tariq Aziz are not immune from prosecution," she said.
Miss Clwyd points to the war crimes case against former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic while he was still in office. She also cites Britain's 1999 legal ruling that former Chilean ruler Augusto Pinochet was not immune from prosecution, which she says set the precedent.
Some Iraqi exiles have complained that Indict should pursue a case against Saddam Hussein for his alleged abuse of Iraqis, rather than foreigners.
Indict receives U.S. funding to investigate Iraqi war crimes and human rights abuses. It was set up as part of U.S.-mandated assistance to Iraqi opposition forces trying to change the Baghdad government.