The father of a man beaten to death by British troops in Iraq and seven other Iraqi citizens tortured in the same incident are being denied entry to the UK, where they are due to discuss compensation with the Ministry of Defence.
Lawyers for the victims last night described the hold-up as "disgraceful" and expressed concerned that the men will not be able to attend the public inquiry into the 2003 incident.
Baha Mousa, 26, a hotel receptionist, died after suffering 93 separate injuries inflicted while he was held at a British detention camp in Basra.
Earlier this year, Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, admitted the abuse and announced that compensation of up to £1m would be paid and a full public inquiry held.
The concession followed a five-year legal campaign, which saw ground-breaking rulings in the application of the Human Rights Act abroad.
One soldier has been convicted for the assaults, which took place over 24 hours. Corporal Donald Payne was jailed for one year after admitting inhumane treatment at a court martial in 2006.
Mr Mousa's father, Colonel Dawood Mousa, a former Iraqi policeman, was denied entry to the UK last year, preventing him attending the High Court hearing in a legal action he had brought, which successfully challenged the MoD's claim that the Human Rights Act did not apply to prisoners held in British custody abroad.
Sapna Malik, of lawyers Leigh Day & Co, said that the process of applying for a visa had already put the men to a great deal of time and expense.
"You cannot apply for a visa to the UK from Iraq, so they have had to go Beirut," she said. "That in itself is expensive and difficult. After waiting several weeks in Beirut they still have not got their visas. We don't know whether it will be granted.
"The British government is not making it easy for them. The mediation with the MoD that was due to take place this month has had to be put back, and then completely rescheduled. This has been going on since the beginning of May. Col Mousa tried in 2007 and was refused entry. He is now trying again."
Phil Shiner, of Public Interest Lawyers, who also represents the men and has headed their legal campaign, said: "It was an absolute disgrace that the government refused Col Mousa entry to attend the House of Lords hearing into the case – his own case. He was not allowed to come to the court martial of the men accused of beating up his son, either. To exclude him is disgraceful."
A UK Border Agency spokesperson said: "We carefully consider all visa applications made and take into account any exceptional circumstances."Reuse content