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Funder: British Academy
Awarded: £6,020
Duration: 01/09/2016 - 20/09/2017

Staff Involved: Dr Thomas Obel Hansen


The project investigates how accountability processes relating to alleged British war crimes in Iraq have unfolded, the interplays between them and the political factors impacting this. On this basis, the project advances the understanding of how so-called positive complementarity, understood to involve synergies between International Criminal Court (ICC) intervention and the progress of domestic accountability efforts, works in a situation involving a major power and supporter of the ICC system.

In this regard, the project has demonstrated that mainstream perceptions in the scholarship and among ICC officials may be too optimistic or lack nuances, because major powers such as the UK possess – and are willing to use – significant resources to undermine such accountability processes, and may to at least to some extent have been successful doing so.

The project involves desk research as well as field work involving interviews with a range of stakeholders, including ICC and UK government officials, academics and practitioners, in order to explore the inter-relationship and synergies between justice processes at the international and national levels.

The project has led to a number of academic and other outputs, including paper presentations at international conference and workshop; and a academic publication published in a leading monograph edited by leading academics working on ICC’s preliminary examinations: “Accountability for British War Crimes in Iraq? Examining the Nexus between International and National Justice Responses”, in Morten Bergsmo and Carsten Stahn, Quality Control in Preliminary Examination: Reviewing Impact, Policies and Practices, TOAEP, 2018.

Additionally, to advance impact, the principal investigator published a number of policy briefs, short articles and comments, including:

  1. “Policy Choices, Dilemmas and Risks in the ICC’s Iraq-UK Preliminary Examination”, FICHL Policy Brief Series, No. 83, November 2017
  2. “Will there ever be accountability for war crimes in Iraq?”, Just News, September 2017
  3. “In Pursuit of Accountability for War Crimes in Iraq”, Global Politics, September 2017
  4. International Criminal Court indictments of U.S. Officials are not Impossible”, JustSecurity, January 2018. The findings of the project have also been disseminated in major media outlets, including in a forthcoming article in The Guardian.