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UK court begins Iraq detainee abuse hearings

A UK High Court in London began hearings Friday to determine whether abuse claims [JURIST news archive] brought by 142 Iraqis against UK military personnel should be subject to public inquiry after Defence Secretary Liam Fox [official profile] refused to open such an inquiry. The Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) [law firm website] group, which represents the Iraqis, submitted videos [BBC report] to support claims that UK soldiers and interrogators [press release] sexually abused detainees, deprived detainees of food and water, threatened to rape detainees' family members and subjected detainees to prolonged solitary confinement, sensory deprivation, forced nakedness and mock executions. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) [official website] opposes a public inquiry, arguing in a blog post [text] that a public inquiry would be too expensive and less effective than the MOD investigation, especially since the MOD has already assembled a team to investigate the claims. PIL reject [Al Jazeera report] the MOD's assertions, however, claiming that the MOD's team lacks independence and that to adequately investigate each claim would take the group over 100 years. The hearings come after a UK High Court ruled [JURIST report] in July that the suit could proceed. The hearings will resume Monday and are expected to end the following day.

In September, an MOD report found that the UK's treatment of detainees complies with domestic and international law [JURIST report]. In July, UK Prime Minister David Cameron [official website] announced that he would create a panel [JURIST report] to investigate claims that British government agents were complicit in the torture of terrorism suspects held overseas. The investigation stems from a civil action, brought by 12 ex-detainees who allege that British agents participated in their abuse while they were held in prisons in Pakistan, Morocco and other countries. The UK will ask them to drop their lawsuits in exchange for possible compensation and a promise that the impending inquiry will fully investigate their claims. In June, the UK government indicated that it will issue a new set of regulations regarding the use of information obtained via torture [JURIST report] as claims of complicity in torture were made against the government in a Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] report [materials] released the same day.

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