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UK judge drops Iraqi detainee abuse charges against five soldiers

[JURIST] A British judge announced Wednesday that he has dropped charges against five British soldiers accused of abusing Iraqi detainees in Basra, while continuing charges against two British co-defendants in their ongoing court-martial. The ruling was issued [JURIST report] Tuesday, but was kept secret until Justice Stuart McKinnon read it to the jury of military officers on Wednesday to avoid unnecessary prejudice to that jury when the court-martial against the remaining two defendants resumes on Monday. McKinnon found that the prosecution had presented enough evidence to charge Warrant Officer Mark Lester Davies and Maj. Michael Edwin Peebles with negligent performance of duties, and that the prosecution failed to present enough evidence to charge the other five soldiers on charges including inhumanely treating detainees under the International Criminal Court Act 2001 (ICCA) [text], other charges under the British Army Act 1955 [text], including assault, manslaughter, and perverting the course of justice. One of the seven soldiers, Corporal David Payne, pleaded guilty in September 2006 to a charge of inhumane treatment [JURIST report], becoming the first British soldier to admit committing a war crime in Iraq. AP has more.

In September 2006, a prosecutor in the case told a British court-martial that senior UK military officers should be held responsible for the abuse of Iraqi detainees [JURIST report] in UK custody because they failed to develop adequate checking procedures on junior personnel. A British Army major testified in November 2006 that a military legal adviser approved techniques for preparing Iraqi detainees [JURIST report] for interrogation with techniques that allegedly violated the Geneva Conventions [ICRC materials]. 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 Mousa [BBC report; JURIST 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 Mousa's death, according to prosecutors.

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