A Collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh

UK inquiry: Iraq citizen's death result of abuse by soldiers

A three-year probe into abuse of military detainees in Iraq was finalized Thursday with the release of a report that found numerous British soldiers were involved in specific episodes of abuse of Iraqi citizens. The independent inquiry was led by retired judge William Gage and focused on the detention of 10 Iraqis arrested at a hotel in 2003 on suspicion of insurgency. One man, Baha Mousa, died in custody from what was concluded [AFP report] to be a combination of soldier-inflicted injuries and a generally weakened state resulting from his detention. Mousa and the other Iraqi detainees were hooded, handcuffed and held in stress positions by the British soldiers and were subjected to a series of violent assaults. Mousa, a father of two, served as the hotel's receptionist and died about 36 hours after being detained, sustaining 93 separate injuries including fractured ribs and a broken nose. Although the use of hooding and painful stress positions was banned by the British government in 1972, Gage found a lack of knowledge of this prohibition, which he reportedly blamed on "corporate failure" by the UK's Ministry of Defence (MOD) [official website]. The report also accused other soldiers of having knowledge of the abuse but not the "moral courage" to report the incidents.

The UK announced the public inquiry [JURIST report] in 2008 after the nine other Iraqis alleged torture at the hands of British troops and sued the MOD for damages. Charges were dropped in 2007 against six British soldiers accused of involvement with Mousa's death, but one accused soldier, Corporal David Payne, pleaded guilty [JURIST reports] in 2006 to a charge of inhumane treatment, becoming the first British soldier to admit commission of a war crime in Iraq. The corporal was singled out in Thursday's report as conducting the final violent assault on Mousa before the prisoner died. Although he pleaded guilty to inhumane treatment of the detainees, Payne pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and perverting the course of justice. A UN report released just last month analyzed the current human rights situation in Iraq and confirmed that human rights abuses in the country continue [JURIST report] despite the drawdown of foreign troops, such as in 2010 when Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported that Iraqi detainees were being repeatedly tortured [JURIST report] in a secret prison in Baghdad.

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.