Four soldiers face charges over death of Iraqi in British custody

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A sergeant and three other soldiers are facing charges over the death of the Iraqi hotel worker Baha Mousa, who died after allegedly being severely beaten in British army cells, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

A sergeant and three other soldiers are facing charges over the death of the Iraqi hotel worker Baha Mousa, who died after allegedly being severely beaten in British army cells, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

The four, all members of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment, are likely to be charged within weeks for offences including Mr Mousa's manslaughter on 14 September 2003, perverting the course of justice and assault. But army prosecutors have so far failed to bring any charges over the alleged torture and assault of eight other men arrested with Mr Mousa - including the case of Kifah Taha, who suffered kidney failure and nearly died after allegedly beingbeaten by troops.

Prosecution lawyers believe there could be insufficient evidence against the QLR soldiers suspected of the assaults to justify charges. It is understood the QLR has closed ranks over the case, with potential witnesses refusing to give evidence - provoking angry criticisms from the men's lawyer yesterday.

Phil Shiner, of Public Interest Lawyers in Birmingham, said it would be a "disgrace" if no one was prosecuted for the attacks on Mr Taha and his colleagues.

"It confirms the military are incapable of investigating themselves. There must be a proper independent inquiry into these cases," he said. The imminent prosecution of the QLR members was revealed in the most detailed disclosure so far by the Ministry of Defence of the abuse and negligence cases from Iraq now facing British forces.

The document released last week by Adam Ingram, the armed forces minister, reveals that 35 officers and soldiers have been reported or charged. That figure excludes two trials - the convictions last month of four Royal Regiment of Fusiliers soldiers over the prisoner abuse photographs from Camp Breadbasket, and the prosecution of Trooper Kevin Williams for allegedly murdering a lawyer, Hassad Sayyad.

The MoD document lists 162 cases - including 14 further cases close to trial, which include six cases of "deliberate abuse"; four Irish Guards facing charges over the drowning of a 16 year old; an RAF Regiment member facing prosecution for an accident that killed five Iraqi women; and an RAF aircrew being investigated for the deaths of three Iraqis in a bombing raid in May last year in Basra.

The failure to prosecute any other QLR members over the Baha Mousa case will intensify demands for sweeping reforms of the military police and military prosecution system. Last December, the High Court lambasted the MoD's handling of the Mousa case, saying that the Government had broken the Human Rights Act by failing to investigate it adequately, and called the military police's inquiry ineffective and "dilatory".

The Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, is pressing Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, to give army prosecutors a greater role in investigations and wants commanders to be stripped of their right to control police inquiries.