Civilian death soldiers 'not just few bad apples'

The British soldiers responsible for the death of an Iraqi detainee were not just "a few bad apples", a public inquiry heard today.

Hotel receptionist Baha Mousa, 26, died in UK military custody in Basra, southern Iraq, in September 2003 after being subjected to humiliating abuse.

British troops in Iraq routinely used interrogation methods banned by the Government in 1972 and did not think they were illegal, the inquiry into his death was told.

Rabinder Singh QC, counsel for Mr Mousa's family and other Iraqis detained with him, said: "This case is not just about beatings or a few bad apples.

"There is something rotten in the whole barrel."

The inquiry has already heard how UK troops subjected Mr Mousa and his fellow detainees to abuse, including making them scream in an "orchestrated choir" and forcing one to dance like Michael Jackson.

It was also played a short video showing Corporal Donald Payne screaming obscenities at the hooded Iraqi prisoners, including Mr Mousa, calling them "apes".

Mr Singh said: "The official version of events was that nothing on that video was in fact illegal.

"What we saw on that video was a soldier trying to implement official policy, forcing detainees to get back into stress positions when they were clearly moaning and unable to maintain those positions.

"They are all shown hooded, again in accordance with orders, and again illegally."

Soldiers from the former Queen's Lancashire Regiment arrested Mr Mousa and the other detainees at Basra's Ibn Al Haitham hotel in the early hours of 14 September, 2003 and took them to Battle Group Main camp, known as BG Main.

There they were subjected to "conditioning techniques", including being forced to maintain painful "stress positions", hooding and deprivation of sleep and food, the inquiry has heard.

These methods had been banned 30 years earlier following their use in Northern Ireland.

One of the detainees recalled hearing Mr Mousa scream: "Oh my God, I'm going to die, I'm going to die. Leave me alone, please leave me alone for five minutes."

Mr Mousa died at about 10pm on 15 September, having sustained 93 separate injuries, including fractured ribs and a broken nose.

Mr Singh said: "One of the striking features of the terrible events of BG Main in September 2003 is that the abuse did not take place in a secret location behind closed doors.

"The temporary detention facility (TDF) was open to the outside. Many people must have seen or heard what was going on. Many seem to have visited the TDF."

He went on: "This gives rise to serious questions about the professionalism of the outfit and whether the culture was one of impunity.

"It also gives rise to serious questions about the capacity of the regiment's members to question and challenge abuse."

Mr Mousa's 22-year-old wife had died of cancer shortly before his death, meaning his two young sons, Hussein and Hassan, were orphaned.

Cpl Payne became the first member of the British Armed Forces to be convicted of a war crime when he pleaded guilty to inhumanely treating civilians at a court martial in September 2006.

He was dismissed from the Army and sentenced to one year in a civilian jail.

Six other soldiers who faced the court martial were all cleared on all counts in March 2007.

The Ministry of Defence agreed in July last year to pay £2.83m in compensation to the families of Mr Mousa and nine other Iraqi men mistreated by British troops.

David Barr, counsel for the Ministry of Defence, said the "appalling" behaviour of British soldiers in the case "disgusted" the Army.

He told the inquiry: "It is with huge regret that the Ministry of Defence acknowledges the way in which some of those techniques were used on Baha Mousa and those detained with him.

"The mistreatment of the detainees went further than the application of these prohibited conditioning techniques.

"They were clearly subjected to brutal violence as well. Conditioning techniques alone do not cause such injuries.

"The brutality was completely unacceptable. It has stained the reputation of the British Army."

Cpl Payne's barrister, Michael Topolski QC, said the former soldier hoped that the inquiry would provide a "clearer and fuller picture" of what happened.

Mr Topolski said: "Donald Payne has accepted and he does accept that he violated his duty to those detainees.

"For that, through us, now without hesitation he wishes to publicly apologise to each of them and in particular to the family of Baha Mousa."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Robbie Savage will not face a driving ban
football'Mr Marmite' faced the possibility of a 28-day ban
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries were putting themselves at risk of tinnitus and, in extreme cases, irreversible hearing loss
health Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries are at risk of tinnitus
It was only when he left his post Tony Blair's director of communications that Alastair Campbell has published books
people The most notorious spin doctor in UK politics has reinvented himself
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in ‘I Am Michael’
filmJustin Kelly's latest film tells the story of a man who 'healed' his homosexuality and turned to God
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower