Allied troops may win immunity from Iraqi laws

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The Independent Online

A deal to give British forces immunity from Iraqi law is being negotiated by British diplomats drawing up a United Nations Security Council resolution to set up an Iraqi government. Sources said they expected the British military to be under their own domestic and military laws.

The deal would echo military operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo where foreign forces remain subject to the military law of their own countries. A Foreign Office spokesman said: "The legal status of multi-national forces post-30 June is a matter for discussion between the multi-national force and the Iraqi interim government and will be discussed in the new UN security resolution."

Diplomats have been discussing the working of a resolution to hand authority to the Iraqis with a full document expected to be published within days, in time for the expected handover of power on 30 June.

The resolution will transfer full power to the Iraqi Interim Authority before elections are held next year. Because the formal occupation of Iraq would end, British and American forces would remain in the country under an agreement with the new government.

One British soldier cleared by his commanding officer on a murder charge over the death of an Iraqi civilian could still face prosecution. The victim is believed to be a 26-year-old hotel receptionist Baha Mousa, who died in British custody.

The head of Scotland Yard's murder squad, Commander Andy Baker, is reported to have recommended that the Crown Prosecution Service launch a full-scale murder inquiry.

Scotland Yard, which refused to comment on whether it has made any recommendations, was asked to consider the case by the CPS. The file on the death was then passed to the Army Prosecuting Authority, overseen by the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, who consulted the CPS.

And the Ministry of Defence has refused to comment on speculation over the identity of a man suspected of being behind the fake Iraqi prisoner-abuse photographs published in the Daily Mirror. A report in a Sunday newspaper said the man was a 25-year-old private who served in Iraq with the Territorial Army, attached to the Queen's Lancashire Regiment.

An MoD spokeswoman said: "This is the subject of a Special Investigations Branch investigation and it would be inappropriate for us to comment or get involved in speculation about identities."