Defence ministers face censure over civilian deaths

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Defence ministers face being censured by the Speaker of the House of Commons for failing to answer a series of parliamentary questions about the deaths and ill-treatment of civilians in Iraq.

Defence ministers face being censured by the Speaker of the House of Commons for failing to answer a series of parliamentary questions about the deaths and ill-treatment of civilians in Iraq.

The Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price and Labour MP Harry Cohen claim that the Ministry of Defence has ignored more than 15 questions about the misbehaviour of British troops in Iraq - including several that date back to mid-February. Four months ago, the Armed Forces minister, Adam Ingram, promised Mr Price three times that he would respond by letter to his questions about the cases of 12 civilians, including two children, who were allegedly shot, drowned or blown up by British forces. Mr Price said that he has not yet had any answer to those questions or another six, which were tabled in March, including questions about the causes of death in cases under investigation and the number of compensation payments made to the families of the dead. He said that this breached parliamentary rules which require ministers to reply to questions within three weeks of them being tabled.

"Is this incompetence, or is it that officials are deliberately seeking to avoid bad headlines?" he said.

Mr Price is to make a formal complaint this week to Michael Martin, the Speaker, and ask him to intervene. These complaints highlight growing disquiet about the refusal of the Ministry of Defence to release details about the escalating number of alleged deaths in custody, wrongful shooting and cases of ill-treatment by British troops in Iraq. The deaths are thought to include cases where a wounded teenage boy drowned after being forced to swim a river and a headmaster was beaten with rifles.

In a statement the MoD insisted: "We are trying to be as open as possible about these investigations given the intense public interest,but this has to be carefully balanced against the right to privacy and the need to protect ongoing investigative and criminal proceedings."

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