Family of Iraqi man killed by soldiers gets £3m payout

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The Independent Online

The Ministry of Defence has agreed to pay almost £3m to the family of an Iraqi who died while being detained by UK troops, and to nine other men who were mistreated, the legal firm Leigh Day & Co has said.

Baha Mousa, a 26-year-old hotel receptionist, died in 2003 while he was being detained by soldiers from the 1st Battalion The Queen's Lancashire Regiment in Basra. He sustained 93 separate injuries, including fractured ribs and a broken nose.

The sum was agreed during the second day of a mediation session between the two sides overseen by Lord Woolf, the former Lord Chief Justice.

The Army's head of personnel, Lieutenant-General Sir Freddie Viggers, also apologised to the families for "the appalling behaviour of British soldiers", the law firm said in a statement.

It read: "Settlement has been reached for the sum of £2.83m in relation to the Iraqi claims by the family of Baha Mousa who was murdered by British troops in September 2003 in Basra and in relation to the torture and abuse of nine other Iraqis.

"The compensation is for the children of Baha Mousa and the pain and suffering suffered by the men at the hands of the British Army. During the mediation, an apology was given by General Viggers where he said 'the British Army apologise for the appalling treatment that you suffered at the hands of the British Army. The appalling behaviour of British soldiers made us feel disgusted'."

An MoD statement said: "The Ministry of Defence and Leigh Day & Co Solicitors are pleased that an amicable settlement has been reached with respect to claims by a group of Iraqi citizens. The settlement is with an admission of liability by the Ministry of Defence which follows on from a statement on 27 March 2008 by the Secretary of State for Defence when substantive breaches of Article 2 (right to life) and 3 (prohibition of torture) of the European Convention on Human Rights were admitted.

"The settlement was accompanied by an apology from the Ministry of Defence."

A spokesman added: "All but a handful of the more than 120,000 British troops who have served in Iraq have conducted themselves to the highest standards of behaviour, displaying integrity and selfless commitment. But this does not excuse that, during 2003 and 2004, a very small minority there committed acts of abuse and we condemn their actions. It is right that compensation has been agreed through mediation.

"The Army has done a great deal since these cases to improve procedures and training. But we are not complacent and continue to demand the very highest standards of conduct from all our troops."

In May this year, the Government announced that a public inquiry would be held into Mr Mousa's death.

The Armed Forces minister, Bob Ainsworth, said the inquiry would not look into other allegations of mistreatment, although that is what lawyers acting for the families of Iraqis had requested.

In January this year, an official report by Brigadier Robert Aitken said forces needed to be given "a better understanding between right and wrong" but added that there was no evidence of endemic abuse.

Martyn Day, the senior partner at Leigh Day who represented the Musa family and the other claimants, said: "Our clients have been through hell over the past few years and this settlement will go some way to enabling our clients to have some semblance of a decent future life."

Sapna Malik, a partner at the firm, added: "With the public inquiry due in a few months, they are at last beginning to see the British system at its best rather than at its worst."