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UK soldier first to plead guilty to Iraq war crime

[JURIST] Corporal David Payne, one of seven British soldiers facing court-martial [Reuters report; MOD press release] for charges relating to the abuse of Iraqi detainees, pleaded guilty Tuesday to a charge of inhumane treatment, becoming the first British soldier to admit commission of a war crime in Iraq. Payne pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and perverting the course of justice. The charges stem from a 2003 raid on a hotel in Basra in which British military confiscated weapons and explosives contraband, and detained several Iraqi civilians, including hotel receptionist Baha Musa [Herald report], who died while in custody. The soldiers allegedly took the Iraqis to a detention facility where they were held for 36 hours and subjected to physical abuse, causing Musa's death, according to prosecutors. Two other soldiers are charged also charged with inhumane treatment, to which they have pleaded not guilty under the International Criminal Court Act 2001 (ICCA) [text], while the other soldiers face prosecution for duty contrary to the British Army Act 1955, including negligent performance of duty and assault. This court martial is the first prosecution of British military under the ICCA.

In June, three British soldiers were found not guilty [JURIST report] the drowning death of an Iraqi teen following the acquittal of another soldier [JURIST report] in May. The acquittals prompted UK Attorney General Lord Peter Goldsmith [official profile] to publicly defend their prosecution [JURIST report]; however, he also called for an investigation [JURIST report] into the adequacy of British courts-martial proceedings. BBC News has more.

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