Phil Shiner profile: A lawyer who takes on the underdog cases

Shiner represented Iraq claimants accusing British forces of unlawful killings

Jonathan Owen
Tuesday 19 May 2015 20:18
Phil Shiner in his Birmingham home (Andrew Fox)
Phil Shiner in his Birmingham home (Andrew Fox)

A devout Catholic who describes himself as a “committed socialist”, Phil Shiner has earned a reputation taking on underdog causes.

After attending a tough Coventry comprehensive and studying law at Birmingham University, be began his career battling for the rights of tenants in council housing, before a stint in environmental law.

He set up his firm, Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), more than a decade ago, representing Iraqi claimants who accused British forces of unlawful killings, torture and other human rights violations during Britain’s occupation of the country between 2003 and 2008.

Mr Shiner, who is now in his late fifties, was given the Human Rights Lawyer of the Year award in 2004 by Liberty and three years later was the Law Society’s Solicitor of the Year.

Baha Mousa died after enduring 93 separate injuries

He is best known for exposing the truth behind the death of Baha Mousa, an Iraqi hotel receptionist who died after being beaten to death by British soldiers in 2003.

Mr Shiner’s firm has also had victories at the European Court, with judgments against the MoD which mean that British forces are subject to human rights laws regarding their actions in Iraq.

A dossier submitted by PIL to the International Criminal Court (ICC) last year, detailing hundreds of allegations against British forces in Iraq, prompted the ICC to mount a preliminary investigation which is ongoing.

Mr Shiner, who has five children, is a keen cyclist and runner. Last year, he said his childhood passion for cross-country had helped forge his never-give-up attitude. “It was what saved me from being squashed. I became a very tough kid,” he said. “I do not know the meaning of slowing down.”

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