Al-Sweady inquiry: British soldiers 'mistreated' Iraqi detainees in breach of Geneva convention

But judge-led inquiry finds allegations of murder and torture were 'deliberate lies'

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The Independent Online

British troops mistreated nine detainees following a fierce battle during the Iraq war, a judge-led inquiry has found.

The long-running Al-Sweady inquiry, which has cost the taxpayer almost £25 million, concluded in its final report that the conduct of some soldiers towards detainees breached the Geneva convention.

But it found that more serious allegations of murder and torture were false, calling them the product of "deliberate lies, reckless speculation and ingrained hostility".

The inquiry was critical of the claims it was initially set up to investigate - that Iraqi detainees had been murdered, mutilated and tortured following the Battle of Danny Boy on 14 May, 2004 near Al Amarah in southern Iraq.

It found that British forces responded to a deadly ambush by insurgents with "exemplary courage, resolution and professionalism".

And it suggested that some of the detainees - all described as members or supporters of the Mahdi Army insurgent group - consciously lied about the most serious allegations to discredit the British armed forces.

Delivering his final report after a five year process which began in November 2009, inquiry chairman Sir Thayne Forbes found there had been instances of ill-treatment during "tactical questioning" of the detainees at Camp Abu Naji (CAN), near Majar-al-Kabir in southern Iraq, on the night of May 14/15.

These included blindfolding the prisoners, depriving them of food and sleep and using threatening interrogation techniques contrary to the Geneva Convention.

The former High Court judge also criticised British soldiers for "tasteless trophies" such as striking poses for photos with detainees.

Sir Thayne wrote: "I have come to the conclusion that the conduct of various individual soldiers and some of the procedures being followed by the British military in 2004 fell below the high standards normally to be expected of the British Army.

"In addition, on a number of other occasions, my findings went further.

"I have come to the conclusion that certain aspects of the way in which nine Iraqi detainees, with whom this inquiry is primarily concerned, were treated by the British military, during the time they were in British custody during 2004, amounted to actual or possible ill-treatment."

But the inquiry chairman said allegations by eight of the nine detainees that they had heard and seen evidence that Iraqi men were beaten, tortured or executed near CAN were "conscious and deliberate lies", and that these were likely "the product of active collusion between them".

His report, which will now be laid before Parliament, makes a number of recommendations including improvements to arrest records in the battlefield.

Additional reporting by PA