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UK High Court hears Iraq detainee torture claims

[JURIST] The UK High Court [official website] Friday heard arguments in a case that alleges British troops tortured ten Iraqi detainees in Basra in 2003. The nine plaintiffs and a tenth man were arrested in a Basra hotel where British troops found weapons and suspected bomb-making materials. Later, the tenth detainee, Baha Mousa [BBC report; JURIST news archive], died while in custody, allegedly as a result of abuse. Seven soldiers faced court-martial [BBC timeline] in connection with Mousa's death. Only one, Corporal David Payne, faced jail time after pleading guilty [JURIST reports] to a charge of inhumane treatment. All other charges were dismissed [JURIST report]. The plaintiffs in the current case are seeking damages from the UK Ministry of Defense [official website] and in August, lawyers for the Iraqi plaintiffs accused the Ministry of Defense of withholding evidence [JURIST report]. The Guardian has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

In June, the UK Law Lords ruled that UK human rights laws apply to British soldiers overseas [JURIST report] in Mousa's case. Next week, the Law Lords will consider whether the government can use a United Nations law to avoid liability for human rights abuses in Iraq [Liberty press release] based on arguments that the language of UN Security Council Resolution 1546 [PDF text] allows indefinite detention of nationals without legal responsibility. The UK government will also argue that British troops in Iraq are under UN control, and therefore outside the bounds of the UK human rights laws. UK human rights group Liberty [advocacy website] plans to argue that the UK maintains control of British forces in Iraq, and that British human rights standards apply to Iraqi detainees.

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