UK court denies public inquiry into Iraq detainee abuse

UK court denies public inquiry into Iraq detainee abuse

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[JURIST] A UK High Court on Tuesday denied an appeal [judgment text] from Iraqi citizens to open a single public inquiry into allegations of abuse by members of the British Armed Forces. The Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) [law firm website], the group representing a group of more than140 Iraqis, appealed to the High Court after Defence Secretary Liam Fox [official website] refused to open a single public inquiry into allegations of UK military abuse. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) [official website] argued that a public inquiry would be unnecessary since public inquiries into the Baha Mousa [JURIST report] and the Al Sweady cases were already under way by the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT). In the appeal, PIL contended that IHAT was not sufficiently independent as required by article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) [text]. Lord Justice Richards and Mr Justice Silber ruled that IHAT met the requirements of article 3, stating:

we do not accept any of the grounds on which the claimant contends that IHAT lacks the requisite independence for the purposes of an article 3 compliant investigation. Any problem arising out of personal involvement by members of the RMP in the events under investigation can be dealt with appropriately and will have to be so dealt with in order to avoid jeopardising the compliance of the process with article 3.

Richards and Sibler did not rule out that the IHAT investigations may give rise to systemic issues that may require public inquiries in the future. PIL issued a statement on Tuesday expressing their disappointment [press release] and announcing their plan to take the case to the Court of Appeals.

The hearings into Fox’s refusal to open public inquiries began in November [JURIST report]. The PIL submitted videos to support claims that UK soldiers and interrogators abused Iraqi detainees in British internment facilities. 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.