An innocent Iraqi man killed in British custody suffered “an appalling episode of serious, gratuitous violence”, according to a judge-led inquiry in the UK that concluded today.
Baha Mousa, the 26-year-old hotel worker who was arrested by the British Army in 2003 on suspicion of involvement in Iraq’s insurgency, suffered 93 external injuries and more internal injuries including broken ribs, said inquiry chairman Sir William Gage.
“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,” Gage added.
Prime Minister David Cameron condemned what he called the “truly shocking and appalling” abuse uncovered by the inquiry. Defence Secretary Liam Fox welcomed the findings of the report, calling it “sober, focused and detailed” yet a “painful and difficult read”.
The report found that “Baha Mousa was subject to violent and cowardly abuse and assaults by British servicemen whose job it was to guard him and treat him humanely”. This treatment was the primary cause of his death.
Watch Baha Mousa being tortured alongside other detainees following their arrest:
The inquiry criticised a “very serious breach of discipline” by a number of soldiers and highlighted their role in torturing detainees. Fox said action will be taken against individuals who are still in service.
Detainees were hooded and put in stress positions as a technique of questioning, in order to make them talk. The inquiry said such measures were “unjustified and wholly unacceptable”. The British government banned the use of such techniques for interrogation in 1972, in accordance with the Geneva Convention.
MINISTRY OF DEFENCE
The report accused the Ministry of Defence of “corporate failure” that caused an unnecessary death and harmed others.
The defence secretary said what happened to Baha Mousa and his fellow detainees in September 2003 was “deplorable, shocking and shameful.” Fox added “I am confident that our approach to detention there is now markedly improved from the period rightly criticised in this report.”
Fox said he accepts “in principle” all of the 73 recommendations in the report, with one reservation. “It is vital that we retain the techniques necessary to secure swiftly, in appropriate circumstances, the intelligence that can save lives,” he explained.
Human rights organisations criticised the length of time it has taken for the full truth to be laid bare. Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International called it “shameful”.
“There is a pressing need for genuine accountability for all human rights violations and crimes under international law perpetrated by UK armed forces in Iraq,” she told euronews. “Questions still need to be answered as to how widespread the abuse was and further investigations into similar allegations must be conducted in a proper manner. Ultimately we are still waiting for justice to be done”.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said senior officials, lawyers and former ministers who resisted the creation of this Public Inquiry into “such appalling human rights abuse” should all “search their consciences about how they allowed the five inhuman interrogation practices to be deemed acceptable”.
One soldier was convicted of a war crime and jailed over the abuse. Six others were cleared.
The inquiry found no evidence of a culture of violence among British forces in Basra. That is small comfort to Mousa’s family (pictured), who have been paid compensation and received an apology.
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