'Torture troops' may yet be charged

Former and serving British soldiers are awaiting a landmark report into the brutal death of an Iraqi civilian which could lead to them facing criminal charges.

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



A major public inquiry into his death and the abuse of nine other Iraqi men held with him is expected to publish its findings in the spring.



While the inquiry has no powers to accuse the soldiers of crimes, prosecutors could use its report as the basis for bringing charges.



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 surviving detainees and Mr Mousa's father are optimistic that further action could still be taken against those behind the abuse.



Their solicitor, Phil Shiner, of Birmingham-based Public Interest Lawyers, said: "My clients remain hopeful that in due course all those responsible for the killing of Baha Mousa and the torture of the survivors will be brought to book.



"It is particularly important that a message be sent out that those in positions of command will be brought to book in the future. That will assist in ensuring that the moral compass must always prevail."



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.



The wide-ranging public inquiry also heard evidence about the question of why British soldiers serving in Iraq used prisoner-handling methods outlawed over 30 years earlier.



It was told that UK commanders had issued orders banning hooding in May 2003 and October 2003 but the practice continued to be used until the following May.



Under the Inquiries Act 2005, inquiry chairman Sir William Gage has no power to make a ruling on anyone's civil or criminal liability.



But the law stresses that he should not feel restricted by the possibility that other authorities will infer liability from his findings or the recommendations he makes.



Sir William said at a hearing in July: "I read that as saying: I find the facts. It is for others to say what they constitute and label them, if they feel it necessary, an offence or civil liability but it is not for me to say."



Lawyers for Mr Mousa's father and the other detainees argued in closing submissions that the inquiry should rule that a group of six soldiers led by Cpl Payne killed Mr Mousa and that others were culpable for failing to prevent the violence against the prisoners.



They added: "Ultimately the CO (commanding officer) is to blame for what happened. The level of aggression which he allowed and sometimes encouraged his forces to exhibit are likely to have caused as many problems in Iraq as they solved."



Col Mendonca, who was cleared by the court martial of negligently performing a duty in relation to the abuse, told the inquiry in February that Mr Mousa's death was a "one-off" and insisted he left Basra a better place.



James Dingemans QC, representing a number of the soldiers, stressed to Sir William in closing submissions: "It is no part of a public inquiry to play around on the edges of criminal law and it is not the function of the procedures that have been given to you by parliament."



Sir William said at the start of the hearings that it was possible the inquiry could uncover "very serious misconduct" by British soldiers.



However, former attorney general Baroness Scotland granted the troops immunity against criminal prosecution based on their evidence to the inquiry.



The Ministry of Defence also said it would not take disciplinary action against military personnel if their testimony suggested they earlier lied or withheld information.



But Sir William rejected calls from the soldiers' lawyers for a guarantee that what witnesses told the inquiry would not be used as hearsay evidence in prosecutions.



The long-standing legal principle of "double jeopardy" prevents people being tried twice for the same crime.



But the Criminal Justice Act 2003 introduced exceptions for serious offences, such as murder and manslaughter, when significant new evidence comes to light.



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.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Could you tell the difference between this and an organic alternative?
food + drink

Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'

Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling will not be releasing a 'romance' novel anytime soon
books
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
Life and Style
tech

Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance

Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
One of the 'princesses' in the video
videoYouTube reinstates sweary video after takedown for 'violating terms'
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Arts and Entertainment
film

Marvel has released first teaser trailer week early after it leaked online

Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant

£70 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Group: SEN Teaching Assistants needed in...

Year 4 Teacher required for 2 terms

£21500 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...

Accounts Assistant - Sales Ledger, Sage Line 50 - St Albans

£20000 - £22000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful and w...

EBD Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a quailed Teacher ...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?