Human rights lawyers and campaigners have asked the International Criminal Court(ICC) to investigate allegations of torture by British troops in Iraq, a move which the UK government dismissed as unnecessary.

A Berlin-based human rights group and a British law firm have submitted what they describe as 250 pages of analysis to the ICC's Office of the Prosecutor requesting action on alleged abuses between 2003 and 2008.

The European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) said in a press release posted on the ECCHR website that there had been "systemic abuse" of Iraqi detainees during the British presence in Iraq which met the threshold of war crimes.

Speaking in an interview, the founder and spokesman for PIL, Phil Shiner, said

"The claims are that based on hundreds of thousands of documents, policy documents, training materials, the testimonies of over 400 Iraqis, that UK officials are responsible for the war crimes of torture, willful killing, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, gross humiliation etc," he said.

"The material, the evidence, goes right to the top. It points at the Secretaries of State for Defence and the Minister for Armed Forces whilst we were in Iraq, and further, the senior Minister of Defence, civil servants and lawyers and the Chief of Defence Staff," he added.

The ICC, which receives dozens of submissions every year and takes very few of them further, can only act where national jurisdictions are unable or unwilling to investigate alleged crimes.

The ECCHR and PIL said more than 400 Iraqi former detainees had made allegations of grave mistreatment, of which 85 had been chosen as "representative cases" in the submission to the ICC.

That inquiry is due to present its findings at the end of this year.

Presented by Adam Justice