MoD paying out £2.8m to abused Iraqis

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The Independent Online

The Ministry of Defence has agreed to pay almost £3 million to the family of an Iraqi who died while being detained by UK troops and nine other men who were allegedly mistreated, their solicitors said today.

The family of Baha Mousa and the nine other men will share £2.83 million in compensation from the MoD, law firm Leigh Day & Co said.

Mr Mousa, a 26-year-old hotel receptionist, died while he was being detained by soldiers from the 1st Battalion The Queen's Lancashire Regiment in Basra in 2003.

Mr Mousa sustained 93 separate injuries, including fractured ribs and a broken nose.

During the mediation session General Freddie Viggers also apologised to the families for "the appalling behaviour of British soldiers" which had left the Army "disgusted", the law firm said in a statement.

It read: "Settlement has been reached this afternoon for the sum of £2.83 million 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 mediation has taken place yesterday and today overseen by Lord Woolf, the former Lord Chief Justice.

"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'."

Martyn Day, the senior partner at Leigh Day who represented the Mousa family and the other claimants, said: "We are very pleased that we have been able to reach this settlement.

"Our clients have been through hell over the last few years and this settlement will go some way to enabling our clients to have some semblance of a decent future life."

Sapna Malik, partner at the firm, added: "The clients are very pleased to see this resolved. It has been hanging over them like a black cloud and with the public inquiry due to take place in a few months' time they are at last beginning to see the British system at its best rather than at its worst.

The MoD said in a statement: "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 will be held into Mr Mousa's death.

The Defence Secretary Des Browne said holding an inquiry was "the right thing to do".

The head of the Army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, said the probe - to be headed by a senior judge - needed to establish whether Mr Mousa's death was the result of the "misguided" actions of a few individuals or a wider "systemic" failure.

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