This ruling exposes our Government's shameful attitude to Iraqi human rights

Share
Related Topics

Yesterday's ruling in the High Court, concerning the suspicious death of a young Iraqi, is a historic victory for a civilised conception of human rights and an important reminder to our Government of its responsibilities to the people of Iraq.

Yesterday's ruling in the High Court, concerning the suspicious death of a young Iraqi, is a historic victory for a civilised conception of human rights and an important reminder to our Government of its responsibilities to the people of Iraq.

In January our sister paper, The Independent on Sunday, revealed that Baha Mousa, a hotel receptionist arrested in Basra by the Queen's Lancashire Regiment, had died while in British custody. Those arrested with Mr Mousa claim he was killed by British soldiers.

Mr Mousa's family feel that the British Army never investigated their son's death properly. Lawyers representing the family in the High Court demanded recourse to justice under the European Convention on Human Rights, arguing that since the Army was in control in that part of Iraq when Mr Mousa died, British justice is applicable.

Lord Justice Rix and Mr Justice Forbes found in favour of the family. The Army's investigation into Mr Mousa's death was judged to have been woefully inadequate and there is now likely to be an independent inquiry. The judges also ruled that since Mr Mousa was being held in the custody of the Army when he died, his family is, indeed, entitled to claim British civilian justice. This includes the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to life and freedom from torture. For Mr Mousa's family this will be a relief. It means they have a chance of finding out what happened to their son.

The High Court ruling also shows how reprehensible the conduct of the British Army and the Ministry of Defence has been throughout this whole affair. Lord Justice Rix and Mr Justice Forbes strongly criticised "the dilatoriness of the investigative process" conducted by the Royal Military Police's Special Investigations Branch. The allegations over how Mr Mousa died were of the utmost seriousness. It is claimed that he was subjected to beatings to his neck and genitals and that he was kicked in the chest until he eventually died. Other prisoners spoke of their experiences of being hooded, deprived of sleep and dunked in freezing water. These alleged abuses are on a par with what happened at Abu Ghraib. But, despite this testimony, those charged with investigating Mr Mousa's death saw no need for urgency.

The manner in which Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, has resisted an independent inquiry into Mr Mousa's death has been scandalous. At first, the Government's lawyers argued that an inquiry would destroy the capability of the Army to wage war since it would be unable to operate freely in future. But Mr Mousa was taken into custody when major hostilities had ended. Thankfully, the judges in this case took the view that holding British soldiers accountable if a civilian dies in their custody is by no means the same thing as denying them the ability to defend themselves or conduct legitimate operations.

The Government's second line of defence was perhaps even more distasteful. It tried to claim that the UK never had effective control of south-east Iraq and that, as a result, Iraqis could not claim access to British justice. It is deeply worrying that our Government, which claims to be taking part in a noble operation to liberate the Iraqi people, should seek to hide behind such a wretched piece of legal sophistry. Despite the moral rhetoric, our Government seems to think Iraqis are only entitled to a lower standard of justice. But again, the judges brushed this argument aside and ruled firmly that the death of Mr Mousa falls under the jurisdiction of British justice.

Yesterday's verdict was not wholly satisfactory, however. The court ruled out inquiries into the deaths of five other Iraqis at the hands of British forces on the grounds that they occurred in regular operations. Yet, some of these killings are just as suspect as that of Mr Mousa. Their families should exercise their leave to appeal. As for our Government, it must accept that it is not enough simply to talk about its devotion to upholding human rights around the world. It must prove it.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Reeyot Alemu (L) and Eskinder Nega (R)  

Voices in Danger: Ethiopian journalists are fleeing from prosecution while others languish in prison

Anne Mortensen
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?