British soldiers have shot and killed Iraqi civilians, including an 8-year-old girl, in several situations where the troops were under no apparent threat, Amnesty International alleged yesterday.
The human rights group's report said the military had failed to investigate many cases in which British soldiers killed civilians in Iraq, and that the inquiries they did undertake were too secretive.
Kate Allen, the director of Amnesty International UK, called for independent inquiries into each of the 37 cases the organization had raised. Of those, 18 are being investigated, she said.
"This really isn't independent or adequate enough," she told BBC radio yesterday.
The Ministry of Defense said it would comment after it had had time to examine the allegations in detail.
Amnesty also reported that armed groups and individuals had killed dozens or possibly hundreds of civilians in British-controlled southern Iraq, and many people were afraid to even discuss the killings. It said Iraqis had little confidence that the British military or Iraqi police could protect them.
"We are told in the UK that southern Iraq is comparatively safe and secure. Yet Iraqis on the ground have painted a very different picture," Allen said. "People live in fear of armed groups who can strike with seeming impunity."
Amnesty said the allegations of killings by British forces were based on its representatives' visits to southern Iraq in February and March. The delegates interviewed shooting victims' families, witnesses, Iraqi police officers and Coalition Provisional Authority officials, the report said.
The group said it could not estimate how many Iraqi civilian deaths British troops had caused.