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Sunday, 11 September 2011

Call For Justice After Iraq Abuse Inquiry

The crown prosecution service is under pressure to bring civil prosecutions against soldiers involved in the abuse of an innocent Iraqi civilian who died in British army custody, after an inquiry found his death was caused by “an appalling episode of serious gratuitous violence”.

Daoud Mousa, father of Baha Mousa, shows photographs of his son and family.

Fourteen soldiers mentioned in the report are still serving, but some were suspended from duty on Thursday. MoD officials expect more suspensions in the coming days.

Baha Mousa, a hotel worker, died in Basra in September 2003 after soldiers repeatedly deprived him of sleep, placed a hood over his head and subjected him to banned “stress positions”.

Sir William Gage, the chairman of the inquiry, called the behaviour “wholly unacceptable in any circumstances”.

Mr Mousa sustained 93 injuries, including fractured ribs and a broken nose over 36 hours of systematic abuse between September 14 and 15, 2003.

Sir William said: “The events described in the report represent a very serious and regrettable incident. Such an incident should not have happened and should never happen again.’’

The directors of both public and service prosecutions are now considering whether the soldiers involved should face trial. Lawyers and campaigners insist they should be tried in public courts.

Sapna Malik, from law firm Leigh Day, said: “In light of the cogent and serious findings by Sir William Gage, we now expect that the military and civilian prosecuting authorities of this country will act to ensure that justice is done.”

Phil Shiner, from Public Interest Lawyers, added that it was an “absolute imperative” that prosecutions were brought in a civilian court.

Liam Fox, the defence secretary, said: “There is no place in our Armed Forces for the mistreatment of detainees and there is no place for a perverted sense of loyalty that turns a blind eye to wrongdoing or erects a wall of silence to cover it up.”

He added that the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (or IHAT), which started work in November 2010, was considering this and other reported cases of abuse.

“It is too early to comment on what the conclusions of the IHAT investigations might be, but cases will be referred to the director of service prosecutions, if and when there is sufficient evidence to justify this,” Mr Fox said.

Sir William issued a total of 73 recommendations to improve the way detainees are handled.

These included asking detainees “on entry and exit from a theatre-level detention facility” if they had any complaints about their treatment, and suggesting Her Majesty's Inspector of Prisons visit battlefield holding centres.

The former Court of Appeal judge condemned the actions of Corporal Donald Payne, who pleaded guilty in September 2006 to inhumane treatment of prisoners, as well as senior officers, including the commanding officer Colonel Jorge Mendonca, Lieutenant Craig Rodgers and Major Michael Peebles.

He said Cpl Payne was a “violent bully” who inflicted a “dreadful catalogue of unjustified and brutal violence” on Mr Mousa and other detainees and encouraged junior soldiers to do the same.

Seven soldiers faced allegations relating to the mistreatment of the detainees at a court martial in 2006-07, but only one was found guilty.

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