Army 'cleared of wholesale abuse'

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The Independent Online

An independent report into how a hotel worker died while being held in British custody in Iraq will clear the Army of systematic torture and mistreatment, according to The Sunday Telegraph.

But the document will criticise the conduct of individual soldiers and highlight "numerous failures" in the Army's chain of command, the newspaper says.



The official findings of the three-year inquiry into the brutal death of Iraqi civilian Baha Mousa and the abuse of nine other Iraqi men detained with him are expected to be released on September 8.



Father-of-two Mr Mousa, 26, sustained 93 injuries while being held by 1st Battalion the Queen's Lancashire Regiment (1QLR) in Basra, southern Iraq, in 2003.



The judge-led inquiry, chaired by Sir William Gage, was ordered in 2008 and became the biggest examination of military conduct in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion.



It heard oral evidence from 247 witnesses over 115 days of hearings between July 2009 and October 2010.



According to the Telegraph, the inquiry has found no evidence that British soldiers conducted wholesale abuse, torture and murder of suspected insurgents during the occupation of southern Iraq.



However, it will accuse former members of 1QLR of "closing ranks" and both senior officers and serving soldiers of a dereliction of duty.



The report will also criticise the nature of the original investigation into how Mr Mousa died, according to the newspaper.



Mr Mousa was working as a receptionist at the Ibn Al Haitham hotel in Basra when it was raided by British forces in the early hours of September 14 2003.



After finding AK47s, sub-machine guns, pistols, fake ID cards and military clothing, Mr Mousa and several colleagues were arrested and taken to Preston-based 1QLR's headquarters.



Here the soldiers subjected the Iraqis to humiliating abuse, including "conditioning" methods banned by the UK Government in 1972 such as hooding, sleep deprivation and making them stand in painful stress positions, the inquiry heard.



Mr Mousa was hooded for nearly 24 of the 36 hours he spent in British detention. He died at about 10pm on September 15.



His 22-year-old wife had died of cancer shortly before his detention, meaning his two young sons, Hussein and Hassan, were orphaned.



Seven 1QLR soldiers, including former commanding officer Colonel Jorge Mendonca, faced allegations relating to the mistreatment of the prisoners at a high-profile court martial in 2006-07.



But the trial ended with them all cleared, apart from Corporal Donald Payne, who became the first member of the British armed forces convicted of a war crime when he pleaded guilty to inhumanely treating civilians.



The Ministry of Defence agreed in July 2008 to pay £2.83 million in compensation to the families of Mr Mousa and nine other Iraqi men abused by British soldiers.



The surviving detainees and Mr Mousa's father are expected to call for a full public inquiry following the release of the report.







A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "More than 100,000 Service personnel served in Iraq and the vast majority conducted themselves with extraordinary courage, professionalism and decency in very demanding circumstances.



"Nonetheless we acknowledge that the actions that led to the death of Baha Mousa were shameful and inexcusable.



"Lessons have been learned and much has been done since 2003 but we look forward to the inquiry's report and will look carefully at any recommendations they make."



PA

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