Posts Tagged ‘Baha Mousa’

Iraq – What was done in our name?

January 14, 2012

Phil Shiner, one of the UK’s leading human rights lawyers, argues we shouldn’t forget that everything the world community abhors about US military actions, from Guantanamo Bay to this week’s US Marines video scandal, is of a piece with UK policies and practices in Iraq, including, as he documents, the abuse, torture of killing of detainees.

Phil Shiner, Ceasefire Magazine,  Jan 13, 2012

Baha Mousa, 26, with his wife and two children. He was detained by the British army for 36 hours and died on 15 September 2003 (Photograph: Reuters)

Two million people marched in London against an invasion of Iraq on 15 February 2003. I doubt if any of the protesters could have imagined in their wildest dreams the serious human rights violations about to be committed by UK Armed Forces and intelligence personnel in our name. Our worst nightmares might have included the use of cluster munitions causing indiscriminate deaths of Iraqi civilians, or disproportionate bombardments of civilian areas, or even the use of depleted uranium, but not what actually happened.

The UK’s detention and interrogation policies in Iraq were not only completely unlawful but outrageously contaminated by the fact that our co-author in this illegal war, soon to become our Joint Co-Occupier subsequently, was the United States. Everything the world community associates with US practices and techniques, whether at Guantanamo Bay, Bagram Air Base, Abu Ghraib, secret sites or rendition is of a piece with UK policies and practices in Iraq. This is not my subjective opinion or idle speculation. It is a matter of publicly available evidence.

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MoD investigating alleged rape and torture of Iraqi civilians by troops

November 14, 2009

Lawyer alleges collusion between Britain and US over ill-treatment of prisoners, including sexual humiliation

The Ministry of Defence confirmed last night that it is investigating 33 cases of alleged abuse, including rape and torture of Iraqi civilians by British soldiers.

One claimant alleges that he was raped by two British soldiers, while others claim they were stripped naked, abused and photographed. Female soldiers are also alleged to have taken part in abuse.

A pre-action protocol letter was served on the Ministry of Defence last week by Phil Shiner, the lawyer representing the Iraqis, according to the Independent.

In the letter to the MoD, reported in the newspaper, Shiner said the allegations raised questions of collusion between Britain and the US over the ill-treatment of Iraqis. “Given the history of the UK’s involvement in the development of these techniques alongside the US, it is deeply concerning that there appears to be strong similarities between instances of the use of sexual humiliation,” said Shiner.

Responding to the allegations, Bill Rammell, the armed forces minister, said: “Over 120,000 British troops have served in Iraq and the vast majority have conducted themselves to the highest standards of behaviour, displaying integrity and selfless commitment. Only a tiny number of individuals have been shown to have fallen short of our high standards. Allegations of this nature are taken very seriously, however allegations must not be taken as fact and investigations must be allowed to take their course without judgments being made prematurely.”

The Guardian reported in September that the Royal Military police had launched a criminal investigation into allegations that British soldiers repeatedly raped and mutilated an 18-year-old Iraqi civilian who was working as a labourer at Camp Breadbasket in Basra, the scene of other abuse allegations.

The man who wishes to remain unnamed alleged that two soldiers raped him, subjecting him to a 15-minute ordeal, then slashed him with a knife. He was treated in hospital for cuts and the military police are understood to have secured the medical records. The victim said he was so traumatised he tried to kill himself.

Shiner also represents Baha Mousa, 26, an Iraqi who died after being taken into UK military custody. Mousa and nine other civilians were arrested at a hotel in Basra in September 2003. The father-of-two died the following day, having suffered 93 separate injuries, including fractured ribs and a broken nose.

Corporal Donald Payne became the first member of the British armed forces to be convicted of a war crime when he pleaded guilty at a court martial in September 2006 to inhumanely treating civilians. He was dismissed from the army and sentenced to one year in a civilian jail.

At the ongoing public inquiry into Mousa’s death, a former British soldier admitted for the first time that he saw Payne and Private Aaron Cooper kicking and hitting the Iraqi shortly before he died. Garry Reader told a hearing on Monday how he had tried to resuscitate Mousa.

Baha Mousa was tortured more than others

September 24, 2009

Middle East Online, Sep 23, 2009

Sons of Baha Mousa, sitting with their uncle

Iraqi father says British troops targeted his son because he had accused them of stealing.

LONDON – The father of an Iraqi man who died in British military custody in 2003 told an inquiry in London Wednesday his son may have been singled out for bad treatment because he had accused troops of stealing.

Baha Mousa, 26, was arrested at the Basra hotel where he worked on September 14, 2003 and died the day after, having suffered 93 injuries including fractured ribs and a broken nose.

His father Daoud Mousa, a colonel in the Iraqi police, told the public inquiry into his death: “I believe that my son may have been treated worse than other people because I had made a complaint… that money was being stolen from the hotel safe.

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Extent of Iraqis’ torture revealed

July 18, 2009

Morning Star Online, Friday 17 July 2009

by Paddy McGuffin

The public inquiry into the death of Iraqi hotel worker Baha Mousa in British army custody and the torture of six other Iraqis began its first proper phase this week.

Although the trial, which is expected to last a year, is in its infancy, serious questions have already been raised over the guidelines laid down by the army for the interrogation and treatment of detainees.

Mr Gerard Elias QC for the inquiry, who has previously represented the British army at the Saville inquiry into Bloody Sunday, has meticulously laid out army protocols, raising a number of issues.

In particular, he queried why the guidelines for combat troops contained no reference to the use of techniques during internment in Northern Ireland in 1971, which are very similar to those used on Mr Mousa and the other detainees.

That case ruled that such practices, including hooding, stress positions, sleep deprivation and beatings, amounted to mistreatment.

He raised the question of whether the response of the MoD, Defence Intelligence Services and serving commanders was “adequate.”

Turning to the events immediately before and during the period that the detainees were held by the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment in Basra, Mr Elias said that a well-respected officer had been killed a month previously and a number of military police had been murdered at al-Amara.

It was suggested that this may have been a reason for the mistreatment.

The men had been arrested after a weapons cache was discovered at the Haitham Hotel, where the majority of them worked.

The inquiry heard repeated evidence – both from detainees and military personnel – of savage brutality inflicted by the soldiers from punching and “martial arts kicks” to repeated and sustained use of stress positions. All are acts which breach the Geneva Convention.

Mr Elias referred to previous evidence by a number of those accused of perpetrating the torture.

“If one considers the injuries suffered alongside the current paucity of evidence from soldiers which could explain these injuries, there is what might well be said a compelling argument that at least some of the soliders are not giving a full and truthful account,” he suggested.

The tragedy of Baha Mousa

July 13, 2009
Morning Star Online, Sunday 12 July 2009
Paddy McGuffin

When 26-year-old Baha Mousa, a newly widowed father of two, was arrested along with six other Iraqi men by British troops in September 2003, he should have been entitled to be treated with decency and basic humanity in accordance with the British army’s much-boasted sense of fair play.

Tragically, Mousa and his co-detainees came face to face with the brutal reality of the army, as previously experienced by thousands of innocent Catholics interned in Northern Ireland in the 1970s and countless others before and since.

Like them, Mousa was branded a “terrorist” and subjected to horrific violence and sadistic torture.

The seven Iraqis were detained during an army raid on the Ibn al-Haitham hotel where they worked, following reports that weapons were being kept there.

The soldiers found assault rifles and pistols in a safe. Hotel staff insisted that they were used for security, but Mousa and several of his colleagues were taken to the British military base at Darul Dhyafa.

The Iraqi captives were hooded, bound, held in stress positions and deprived of sleep, kicked and beaten – in Mousa’s case, fatally.

“The military initially attempted to brush the death under the carpet and, in a move which added insult to injury, offered the Mousa family a paltry £3,000 in exchange for Mousa’s life”

So-called “conditioning methods” of this type were banned by the Geneva Convention, the Laws of Armed Combat, a 1972 government inquiry into interrogation in Northern Ireland and the Human Rights Act 1998.

Yet on the evidence of this case and many others in recent years, these techniques would appear to still be widely used by the British army with, it is argued, at least the tacit approval of the government.

When Mousa’s body was put before his stunned and grieving father for identification, it was found that he had suffered 93 separate injuries, including fractured ribs and a broken nose.

Mousa’s father, a colonel in the Iraqi police, had last seen his son alive lying on the floor of the lobby of the hotel, his hands behind his head.

He had reassured his son after a British officer, who called himself Lieutenant Mike, told him that it was a routine investigation which would be over in a couple of hours.

Three days later, Colonel Daoud Mousa was visited by military policemen who told him his son had died in custody.

The next time he saw him was on a slab, his face so battered and bruised that he was barely recognisable to the man who had known and loved him all his life.

At a High Court hearing in 2004, Col Mousa described his horror at the state of his son’s body.

“I was asked to accompany them to identify the corpse,” he said.

“When I saw the corpse I burst into tears and I still cannot bear to think about what I saw. Every time I tell this story I break down.”

One of those who survived the brutal detention described what happened.

“They were kick-boxing us in the chest and between the legs and in the back. We were crying and screaming,” he said.

“They set on Baha especially and he kept crying that he couldn’t breath in the hood. He kept asking them to take the bag off and said he was suffocating.

“But they laughed at him and kicked him more. One of them said: ‘Stop screaming and you will be able to breathe more easily’.”

It has previously been reported that the soldiers gave the detainees the names of footballers as they repeatedly kicked them.

As with countless other cases, the military initially attempted to brush the death under the carpet and, in a move which added insult to injury, offered the Mousa family a paltry £3,000 in exchange for Mousa’s life.

Seven soldiers faced a court martial at Bulford Camp in Wiltshire on war crimes charges relating to the receptionist’s death.

All but one were cleared on all counts in March 2007.

The Ministry of Defence eventually agreed in July last year to pay £2.83 million in compensation to the families of Mousa and a number of other Iraqi men mistreated by British troops.

The public inquiry, due to begin today, will not only look into Mousa’s death and the mistreatment of a number of others but it will also look at the continued use of torture by the British army.

This is not a one-off case. Nor is it even exceptional.

The Ministry of Defence has been forced to concede an inquiry into the alleged torture and murder of 20 Iraqis and mistreatment of a number of others at Camp Abu Naji in 2004.

Phil Shiner, the solicitor for Col Mousa and all the victims in the Baha Mousa inquiry said: “What happened in this incident must never happen again. This inquiry starts hot on the heels of the government agreeing to a second major inquiry into the events of Camp Abu Naji on May 14-15 2004.

“The Baha Mousa inquiry has a golden opportunity to ensure that the techniques banned from Northern Ireland in 1971 can never be used again by the UK and to expose the systemic failings that allowed this to happen.

“The second inquiry shortly to be announced needs to be into the human rights violations while the UK detained the Iraqis. There are simply too many incidents for the government to consider fighting each one on a case-by-case basis.”

The inquiry, chaired by Sir William Gage, will also look at the historic use of torture and interrogation by British forces, including those used during internment in 1971 in Northern Ireland which were banned by the European Court of Human Rights as “cruel and unusual punishment.”

The inquiry has been divided into four “modules” which will deal in turn with the history of conditioning techniques used by British troops while questioning prisoners from Northern Ireland in the early 1970s to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, what happened to Baha Mousa and other Iraqi detainees, training and the chain of command, what has happened since 2003 and any recommendations for the future.

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