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UK military announces independent inquiry into Iraqi deaths

[JURIST] UK Secretary of State for Defence Bob Ainsworth [official profile] announced Monday that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) [official website] was prepared to establish an independent inquiry into the deaths of 20 Iraqis at a British base outside of Basra in 2004. In a letter read [BBC report] to the High Court of Justice [official website], Ainsworth admitted that the MOD had failed to disclose documents that showed that senior government officials were aware of allegations of torture, mutilation, and murder by British troops at Camp Abu Naji in May of 2004, and therefore hindered the on-going judicial review of a Royal Military Police (RMP) [official website] investigation. Six Iraqis alleging the mistreatment and killing of 20 Iraqis following a firefight near the town of Majar-al-Kabir brought suit seeking the creation of an independent inquiry into the incident. The MOD had urged reliance on the RMP report, which found no evidence of wrongdoing, saying that the lack of timely complaints by Iraqis discredited the allegations. However, documents made available to the court Monday by the MOD show that the Red Cross [official website] had documented the complaints within days of the incident. Lord Justice Scott Baker said that the MOD's lack of disclosure had rendered the nearly two year trial "a complete waste of time, at vast expense." Baker said he would stay the proceedings once the MOD provided more information about the proposed inquiry.

In September 2008, the MOD admitted [JURIST report] the unlawful abuse of nine Iraqi detainees at Camp Breadbasket, a humanitarian aid distribution center near Basra. Photographs of the abuse at Camp Breadbasket emerged during 2005 court-martial proceedings that resulted in the convictions of four soldiers who were sentenced to prison [JURIST reports] and dishonorably discharged. In July 2008, the MOD reached a settlement [JURIST report] with nine other Iraqis who were abused at the camp, agreeing to pay £2.83 million in compensation, in addition to apologizing and admitting liability. That settlement included the family of Baha Mousa [BBC report; JURIST news archive], a tenth man who died in custody. Later that month, a report released [JURIST report] by Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights found that UK soldiers may have used officially-banned tactics to interrogate Iraqi detainees.

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