New clues in Baha Mousa custody death inquiry


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The Independent Online

New lines of inquiry linked to the death of a hotel receptionist who was interrogated and abused by British soldiers a decade ago are to be investigated by a specialist team.

Hotel receptionist Baha Mousa, 26, was working at Basra's Ibn Al Haitham hotel in September 2003 when it was raided by British forces.

He and several colleagues were taken to the British military base at Darul Dhyafa, where Mr Mousa died whilst he was in custody.

He had suffered 93 separate injuries while he was detained, including fractured ribs and a broken nose.

Iraqi detainees who survived the detention said they endured humiliating mistreatment and brutality, including interrogation techniques specifically outlawed by the British Government in 1972 such as: hooding, sleep deprivation, and being made to stand in painful "stress positions".

Today the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), set up to examine allegations British troops ill-treated and murdered Iraqi citizens, said it will look at new lines of inquiry linked to the case.

In September 2011 a public inquiry led by Sir William Gage found Mr Mousa died after suffering "an appalling episode of serious gratuitous violence" which represented a "very serious breach of discipline" by members of 1st Battalion the Queen's Lancashire Regiment (1QLR).

Then in March last year, it was announced that IHAT should conduct a review of the Baha Mousa public inquiry report.

Head of IHAT Mark Warwick said: "The death of Baha Mousa and the serious abuse against his fellow detainees shocked people across the world and the subsequent investigations and inquiries sought to establish what happened and who was responsible.

"Building on the work of these earlier inquiries, IHAT's initial assessment has identified a number of lines of inquiry which we believe warrant further attention and to which a dedicated team of investigators will be assigned.

"We realise that the news of another investigation so long after the event will be difficult for the victims, their families and the soldiers concerned. I would like to offer reassurance that both IHAT and the SPA will do all we can to ensure the investigation proceeds quickly and efficiently."

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) 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.

The IHAT is examining claims of abuses in Iraq by UK armed forces personnel from 2003 to July 2009.

It is alleged that women, the elderly and children were among the victims as British soldiers went in search of individuals to detain and interrogate following the invasion of Iraq by the coalition led by the US.

It is also alleged that British interrogators were guilty of unlawful killings as well as torture in British-controlled detention facilities between 2003 and 2009.

In December last year the MoD said it had paid out £14m in compensation and costs to 205 Iraqis who alleged unlawful imprisonment and mistreatment, and that it was negotiating a further 196 payments.

Several hundred more claims were expected to be lodged.

The IHAT investigation is projected to run until the end of 2016, with a budget of £35.7 million.