Major Robert Campbell and veterans falsely accused of war crimes

by Major Robert Campbell

Major Robert Campbell and veterans falsely accused of war crimes

by Major Robert Campbell
Major Robert Campbell
Case Owner
Major Robert Campbell is heading a landmark legal action on behalf of army veterans after "18 years of hell". Major Campbell was falsely accused of horrific war crimes leaving him wanting to die.
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Major Robert Campbell
Case Owner
Major Robert Campbell is heading a landmark legal action on behalf of army veterans after "18 years of hell". Major Campbell was falsely accused of horrific war crimes leaving him wanting to die.
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Latest: June 21, 2021

£10,000 per veteran to issue civil proceedings

Thanks again for everyone's support so far.

In recent years, there has been a substantial increase in the fees to issue civil proceedings. As a result, the court fee is now £10,000 (per pers…

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Who are we?

We are a group of service personnel and veterans falsely accused of horrific war crimes in Iraq.  Our lives have been devastated as a result.

My story

My name is Robert Campbell and I served for 21 years in the British Army as a soldier in the Parachute Regiment TA, and as a Regular Officer in the Royal Engineers. In 2003 I was falsely accused, with others, of murdering an Iraqi civilian called Said Shabram, by drowning him. 

On behalf of my soldiers, and the thousands of others that were falsely accused, I am now bringing legal action against the MOD for redress after enduring 18 years of exceptional bureaucratic incompetence.

I am unable to work and suffer acute PTSD due to my operational service and  unnecessary legal trauma that the MOD put me through for its own political purposes. I am not alone – thousands of other soldiers and veterans have suffered at the hands of the Army and the MoD in the same way, and are now seeking redress for this debacle.

What are we doing about it?

I am seeking justice for those falsely accused of horrific war crimes by bringing a legal action against the Ministry of Defence and the insurers of Phil Shiners Law Firm Public Interest Lawyers.

We now know that this whole exercise was built upon deceit.

Phil Shiner knowingly brought cases fuelled by promises of compensation cheques, without proper legal process and was struck off the role of solicitors as a result, his insurers must bear responsibility too.

What is the next step in the case? 

We have spent a number of years gathering sufficient evidence to pursue these cases and we are now in the process of initiating claims.  All this has come at a cost, no legal aid is available to the armed forces to pursue their rights to justice.

How much we are raising and why? 

To claim justice for our brave men and women is expensive, to issue each case, the court fee alone, is £10,000.

Help us find justice for our brave armed forces so wrongly accused whilst serving their country in Iraq so far away from home.



Background to the case

Incident 

On 23rd May 2003, my soldiers and I drove to the Shatt Al Arab riverside docks to wash our vehicles. We had no ulterior or aggressive motive for being there other than that. I found Shabram and another Iraqi, called Auda, trying to cut a live electricity cable and feared they would be electrocuted, which I tried to explain. We did not understand one another, so I asked them to follow me to a local man that I knew spoke English. As he was explaining the danger of cutting live cables to them, a crowd gathered around our vehicles, which was normal in 2003 as the relationship with the local population was still good.

Far from being brutalised and thrown in the river as we were later accused, in reality Shabram and Auda tried to escape a hostile and swelling crowd which held them responsible for robberies in the area. My soldiers and I were trying to protect them and created a path through the crowd for them to escape. Auda jumped into the water and swam to the other side of a berth and Shabram followed him. He never surfaced.

One of my soldiers immediately jumped in to try and save him, and I quickly followed him. We desperately attempted to find him for over 40 minutes in water that was polluted with oil, sewage and debris while we were fully clothed. On the dockside, my soldiers had another problem as the crowd had swelled to dozens of people and became hostile. These new people assumed we were to blame and began attacking the two men. Eventually we were ordered to return to base, which after one final attempt at finding Shabram, we did.

On arrival back at base, I reported exactly what had happened to my Captain and we all wrote statements that day, after returning from the Field Hospital where we had to be checked up as we had ingested oil and water.

Accusations and investigations

What followed was 18 years of unending false allegations and investigations.

The family of Shabram was told by the locals that we had deliberately drowned him and soon afterwards the Royal Military Police began interviewing soldiers from my Squadron.

When we returned to Germany in July 2003, the first of eight investigations that destroyed our lives began. We were ostracized, had our Iraq medals withheld, were sent away to another camp to not be in the Regimental photograph and were treated as guilty despite never being charged with anything during this time.

Then when a case was eventually brought against us, it was dismissed at a hearing in Basra in 2006, when it was obvious that Iraqi ‘witnesses’ had fabricated their story in an attempt to obtain financial compensation. We were told it was over and to get on with our lives.

In 2008, the Army started another inquiry into abuses carried out by British Forces in Iraq - the Aitken Report - and included our case in a list of six war crimes, despite our acquittal two years earlier. I protested at the time, but was told to shut up by my superiors, and told this report was necessary to avoid accusation of a whitewash.

In 2010, the now discredited solicitor Phil Shiner and Leigh Day limited brought a civil action against the Ministry of Defence (MoD), which made a commercial decision to pay compensation to the Shabram family without consulting us.

In 2013 the Iraq Historical Allegations Team (IHAT) was set up to investigate all related allegations. The process was an utter disaster. Investigators were private contractors with no police powers, tasked with investigating allegations of murder or torture in an environment of which they had no experience, in a country they never visited, involving people whose language and culture they did not understand. Investigators were later revealed to have abused their remit, undertaken illegal searches and surveillance of soldiers and threatened families with arrest if they declined to answer their questions.

In our case, IHAT set about intruding into every aspect of our lives even though it had no legal powers to do so. Investigators hacked our email accounts and medical records, went looking for bar-room rumours, recruited informants and – incredibly - formed a formal partnership with Phil Shiner, the man at the centre of thousands of false allegations, to ‘find’ Iraqi witnesses to fabricated cases. The Ministry of Defence paid millions of pounds to Phil Shiner and his employees for fake evidence of war crimes, which IHAT accepted without question. Investigators even presented themselves as police officers to my ex-girlfriend, and demanded she submit to an interview. They asked her if I had secretly confessed to her, if I was an alcoholic, if I had anger issues or if I was a racist.

I had been diagnosed with PTSD in 2011 from my Operational service in Afghanistan and had made some recovery, but these investigations completely broke me.

By January 2015, I had done five tours of Afghanistan and been promoted to Major. While I was at Staff College, I was told IHAT was coming to arrest me for murder and start yet another investigation. This was the fifth time.

I asked to defer the nine-month course I was on and in response, my Commanding Officer said, “If you haven’t done anything wrong, you’ve nothing to fear,” and unhelpfully suggested that I “Try not to think about it”. I was expected to perform as if I was not being accused of murder, and no concession would be given.

Whenever I asked for help, everyone in the MoD said that it was somebody else’s problem. At this point after 12 years of investigations I just wanted to die. Our ordeal seemed endless.

Following a mental breakdown, I was placed on permanent sick leave in February 2016 while the IHAT investigations continued, and I never returned to work.

In 2017, the MP Johnny Mercer chaired a Defence Select Committee into IHAT, which revealed that everything I had been saying was true:

  • The MOD had paid Phil Shiner to find fake witnesses to crimes that never happened.
  • IHAT investigators had impersonated Police Officers and abused their position.
  • Thousands of soldiers had their personal information given to a private company by the MOD - illegally.
  • The MOD had failed to support the accused and refused to pay their legal fees.
  • Phil Shiner and others had so rattled the MOD with false allegations that the Army was willing to sacrifice us to protect its own reputation.

After years of concocting thousands of completely false cases of war crimes to the MoD, Shiner was struck off as a solicitor on 22 counts of misconduct and within a year IHAT – branded an ‘unmitigated failure’ by MPs - was shut down. We were told that our case was closed, yet again.

However, soon after what should have been closure, we were subjected to yet another investigation - the Iraq Fatalities Investigations (IFI).

After a further three-year ordeal, during which the Army had medically discharged me, the IFI concluded with a report by Baroness Heather Hallett, which exonerated us entirely. She concluded that there is “no reliable evidence” that any soldiers were involved in the death of the young Iraqi man, nor had we, or the Army performed any kind of cover-up. 

Baroness Hallett also determined that the Iraqis involved had conspired to pervert the course of justice and that this conspiracy began the day Shabram died.

Seventeen years, eight investigations, careers destroyed, reputations in tatters, broken men, all for the last investigation to reach exactly the same conclusion that the first did.

Impact on career, welfare and lack of support from the MOD 

 Though the Hallett report finally exonerated us, it did not undo what the harm perpetrated by the MoD on all the soldiers involved. In my own case, the numerous investigations blighted my whole military career because the incident happened less than a year after I was commissioned.

I was subjected to eight different investigations over a period of seventeen years. The outcome of the eighth investigation was the same as the outcome from the first. Each time, I was told that the case was closed, to ‘move on and put it behind you’, only for another investigation to open up. There was never any apology, and we were expected to carry on as if it had never happened.

I am angry that the Army and the MOD abandoned us – all serving soldiers. Angry that despite the two key Iraqi witnesses being exposed as liars in 2006, the MoD and IHAT chose to expose us to constant legal jeopardy to protect the Army’s own reputation.

During the investigations, I wrote to eight generals asking for some very basic assistance – such as support to pay my lawyers. None would help and no one from the MoD would listen. Every general I approached told me the repeated investigations were necessary for PR reasons, or that I just needed to accept ‘it’s going to be uncomfortable’. The Army delayed paying our lawyers for more than a year.

Once the chain of command had failed us, I tried writing to Defence Ministers. I wrote to Penny Mordaunt, Mark Lancaster, Mike Penning, Des Browne, Michael Fallon, Gavin Williamson, and Liam Fox to inform them what IHAT was doing and how we had been discarded by the Army. Those that did reply all responded the same way: “All allegations of wrongdoing must be investigated” and they were not going to help. We were alone.

I tried to be the best officer I could be and received four separate awards during my career for bomb disposal. These awards and medals became meaningless by the constant accusations, so in 2017 I returned my medals to the Queen in protest. I struggled to deal with the repeated investigations, but the ordeal overwhelmed me and I tried to take my life several times.

We have all been broken by this appalling process and as a result, all of my innocent soldiers were driven from the Army and have received treatment for mental health conditions. This was on top of the violence of our operational tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hundreds of blameless soldiers have been abandoned by the Army on false allegations by Phil Shiner, and no-one has ever received any acknowledgement or apology.

When I was discharged from the Army in 2018, I was diagnosed with PTSD, co-morbid anxiety and a depressive disorder.  By 2017/18, my military therapists were of the view that only medical discharge away from a military environment might help me address my mental health issues.

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Update 2

Major Robert Campbell

June 21, 2021

£10,000 per veteran to issue civil proceedings

Thanks again for everyone's support so far.

In recent years, there has been a substantial increase in the fees to issue civil proceedings. As a result, the court fee is now £10,000 (per person) to issue a claim of this nature. 

The 30 veterans in our group simply cannot afford to pay the £10,000 court fee. We are therefore crowdfunding to cover the cost of us all issuing civil proceedings.

Please continue to share on social media and spread the word!

Update 1

Major Robert Campbell

June 3, 2021

It’s heartening to know we are not alone

We would like to express our earnest gratitude for all the kind support with this fundraiser.
I am moved by the many messages, and it’s heartening to know that finally, we are not alone. Hopefully this will help drive the changes required for this to never happen to any British soldier again.

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