The suit names Prime Minister Tony Blair, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, and Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, who recently retired as Chief of Defence Staff, according to British media reports.

 

The court's chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, will review a dossier containing allegations of human rights abuses by British troops in Iraq, said a statement released by the ICC.

 

The dossier compiled by the Greek lawyers contains 74 press clippings and 13 video-tapes of news reports on the war in Iraq.

 

Based on these reports, experts from the Athens Bar Association have prepared 22 charges referring to specific incidents and asked the prosecutor’s office to investigate possible war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

 

A UK Foreign Ministry spokesman told Reuters news agency that the British government was aware of the reports but had "nothing to add by way of comment, except to say the British government has acted in accordance with international law throughout the conflict".

 

The ICC chief prosecutor of the world's first permanent war crimes court will now have to decide whether the British officials have a case to answer.

 

Lawyers see ‘duty to bring case’

 

British media quoted the association president as saying he did not expect Blair would end up testifying in court.

 

"I don't think that's very likely," Dimitris Paxinos reportedly told a Greek radio station, "but really that does not concern me. I see it as my duty to bring the action."

 

The lawyers' action reflects the widespread anti-war sentiment in Greece in the run up to the conflict in Iraq, which was opposed by all the main Greek political parties.

 

Paxinos said his association was not naming US President George W Bush in its case because Washington had not ratified the treaty setting up the ICC.

 

The Bush administration has actively sought to exempt its citizens from the jurisdiction of the ICC. It has concluded a series of bilateral agreements with other countries to prevent the extradition of US citizens and military personnel to the ICC.

 

Critics have accused Washington of bullying poorer and weaker states into such agreements. Earlier this year, the US Congress set a deadline of 1 July for countries receiving US aid to agree to exemptions.

 

Shortly after the deadline, the White House announced it would suspend aid to 35 countries that had not yet signed a bilateral agreement preventing the extradition of Americans.