Ministry of Defence paid nearly £22 million in Iraq War compensation claims

Taxpayers paid more than £20 million to cover compensation claims against the British military during the Iraq war.

Some 1,471 claims brought by Iraqi nationals between 2003/04 and 2016/17 were settled by the Ministry of Defence (MOD), according to a Freedom of Information Act.

The overall bill totaled £21,949,879.

Figures released show that most of the cases, some 1,145 over the six years until British withdrawal in 2009, were settled for £2.1 million by the MoD's claims officer in Iraq.

However, the vast majority did not reach public attention in Britain.

The MoD agreed £19.8 million in out-of-court settlements in 326 cases, out of a further 1,200 claims for wrongful imprisonment or mistreatment, brought before UK courts.

British forces were sent to Iraq by Tony Blair in 2003. Credit: PA

Publication of the figures comes after Leigh Day solicitors Martyn Day, Sapna Malik and Anna Crowther were cleared of wrongdoing in pursuing compensation actions for claimants who were later said to have told "deliberate lies".

The decision drew a line under a 13-year legal fight sparked by the Battle of Danny Boy in May 2004, when British troops were given an order to remove the bodies of the 20 Iraqi dead and take them back to a nearby camp along with nine prisoners of war.

The detainees, who were insurgents with the Shia militia Mahdi Army, would go on to claim they had been mistreated and heard the torture and murder of their compatriots.

The legal cases cost the British taxpayer at least £20 million. Credit: PA

The MoD FoI response said: "The reason for the settlement of the overwhelming majority of claims received is not, as has been reported, that the MoD accepts that the claimants were maltreated."

Payouts were in line with a European Court of Human Rights decision in 2011 on unlawful detention but the Strasbourg court changed position in a similar case in 2014, and the MoD said it had since ceased payments.

The cost to the public purse is likely to be far higher, reportedly reaching £100 million.

But the MoD has declined to give a figure for payments in relation to court costs, citing confidentiality.