Revealed: the handwritten notes made by soldiers after Mousa died

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The Independent Online

The death of Baha Mousa is recorded in a terse and simple entry in the British Army logbook, and written in slightly shaky handwriting.

Timed at 22.42 on 15 September 2003, the three-line note reads: "Prisoner died in custody deceased at 2205 after CPR [resuscitation] from 2150 - Baha Nashen Mohamed - one of suspects from hotel raid yesterday."

And someone had scratched a line through the word "after" - perhaps in an attempt to distance the soldiers who tried to bring Baha Mousa back to life after the abuse and torture that allegedly caused his death.

Word of the hotel receptionist's death spread extremely quickly. Within minutes, the logbook reveals, the news had surged through the upper ranks of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment - the battalion that had arrested and interrogated Mr Mousa - and the Army's brigade headquarters.

Within 30 minutes of his death, military detectives of the Special Investigation Branch (SIB) were alerted. From then, their investigation into what has become one of the most notorious incidents of the occupation of Iraq should have been a textbook example of British justice in action. Instead, said two senior High Court judges last week, the official military inquiry was slow, shambolic and failed to meet the basic legal standards of the European Convention on Human Rights.

"We are unable to accept that the investigation has been open or effective. Other than at the early stages and at the autopsy, the family has not been involved. The outcome of the SIB report is not known. There are no conclusions. There has been no public accountability. All this in a case where the burden of explanation lies heavily on the United Kingdom authorities," they stated.

Their criticisms followed an unprecedented legal action brought by a Birmingham-based solicitor, Phil Shiner, into allegations that British forces had broken the Human Rights Act and the European convention by failing to protect six civilians allegedly killed by British troops and by failing to investigate their deaths fully and independently.

Further details about the operation that led to Baha Mousa's death can now be revealed. The raid was a major event. The hotel, intelligence suggested, was linked to an Iraqi terrorist group that had killed one of the regiment's officers in a roadside ambush.

Brigadier William Moore, the commander of the 4,000-strong British armoured brigade then deployed in south-east Iraq, was on the roof of the Ibn Al Haitham hotel when the Queen's Lancashire Regiment raid began soon after dawn on 14 September, under Operation Salerno.

The logbook notes that eight weapons, including six AK47 assault rifles, were seized. By 07.37 that morning, it records the detention of Baha Mousa and seven other staff: "Op Salerno. 8 pax arrested with various weapons and terrorist paraphernalia."

There is no suggestion that Brig Moore had any link to, or knowledge of, the alleged abuse that followed. But over the next two days, the eight detainees were allegedly subjected to repeated physical and mental abuse, including torture, during their interrogation by British troops at the British headquarters in Basra. One detainee, Khifeh Taha, who attended July's High Court hearings in the case, was nearly killed by the sustained beatings he allegedly endured.

Brig Moore was at the forefront of attempts to reassure the family the case would be rigorously investigated. The Ministry of Defence insists the High Court is wrong to be so critical, arguing that the criminal prosecution of the alleged perpetrators has not yet begun.

But Lord Justice Rix and Mr Justice Forbes compared the UK's behaviour critically with Pentagon inquiries into Abu Ghraib. "There is nothing else before us to explain the dilatoriness of the investigative process: which might possibly be compared with the progress and open public scrutiny ... arising out of possible offences in prisons under the control of US forces."

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