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UK court drops last abuse charges against soldiers for death of Iraqi detainee

[JURIST] Charges were dropped Tuesday against the last of seven British soldiers [BBC trial timeline] accused of causing the 2003 death of Iraqi civilian Baha Musa [Herald report]. A military panel cleared Major Michael Peebles and Warrant Officer Mark Davies of negligently performing their duties. Charges against Lieutenant Colonel Jorge Mendonca [JURIST report] and four other soldiers were dropped [BBC report] in February, and in September, Corporal David Payne pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to a charge of inhumane treatment. Although the remaining charges against Payne were also dropped in February, he became the first British soldier to be convicted of a war crime in Iraq. The two other courts martial against British citizens also resulted in dismissal of all charges. A British judge said Monday that he dropped the charges against Mendonca because his superiors approved some of the techniques [JURIST report].

The charges stem from a 2003 raid on a hotel in Basra in which British military personnel confiscated weapons and explosives contraband, and detained several Iraqi civilians, including Musa, who died while in custody. Prosecutors allege the soldiers took the Iraqis to a detention facility where they were held for 36 hours and subjected to physical abuse, causing Musa's death. Because surviving abuse victims were hooded, they could not confirm the identities of the soldiers who caused Musa's death. Phil Shiner, who is representing the victim's families in a civil case soon to come before the judicial panel of the House of Lords [official website], condemned the dismissal, calling for an independent civilian inquiry into the events. The Guardian has more.

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