‘THIS is torture by any definition of that word.’
That was the reaction of lawyer Phil Shiner, as he made public photographic and medical evidence concerning the injuries to hotel worker Baha Mousa, who died in British military custody in Iraq in September 2003.
Baha Mousa’s father, Colonel Daoud Mousa, who was due to attend yesterday’s press conference, was denied a visa to come to Britain.
Phil Shiner read out a statement from Mr Mousa, which said: ‘When I saw the corpse I burst into tears and still cannot bear to think about what I saw. . . I was horrified to see my son had been severely beaten and his body was literally covered in blood and bruises.
‘The cover was removed from his body to allow me to see all of it.
‘He had a badly broken nose. There was blood coming from his nose and mouth.
‘The skin on one side of his face had been torn away to reveal the flesh beneath.
‘There were severe patches of bruising over all of his body.
‘The skin on his wrists had been torn off and the skin on his forehead torn away and there was no skin under his eyes either. I literally could not bear to look at him. . . ’
Baha Mousa was 26 when he died in the custody of the British army, three days after having been arrested by soldiers from a unit of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment on September 14, 2003.
Phil Shiner said the medical and photographic evidence he was making public – following the end of a court martial hearing in Bulford – ‘speaks for itself’.
He said it was clear that Baha Mousa’s face was in a ‘terrible state’ and that he was left ‘black and blue’.
He also said there was evidence of a ‘ligature strangulation mark’, suggesting someone had tried to strangle him at some point.
He said Baha Mousa’s body had been bruised ‘as much, I suspect, as a body will bruise’ and he had suffered 93 injuries, including four broken ribs.
The press conference was hosted by Liberty on the eve of a House of Lords hearing which Liberty director, Shami Chakrabarti, described as a ‘very important constitutional case’, about whether human rights law should apply to the British government and the British army abroad.
Phil Shiner and Shami Chakrabarti were joined by MP Diane Abbott in demanding a full, independent public inquiry, demanding that the highest levels of the British government and military be held accountable for the conduct of the British occupying forces in Iraq.
Shiner also showed reporters photographs showing severe bruising on other Iraqis detained with Baha Mousa.
Shiner described the court martial at Bulford as ‘a shambles, a farce and a travesty’.
He alleged that ‘a multiple of soldiers were responsible for what happened to these men’, citing the remarks of Mr Justice McKinnon about a ‘free for all’.
He said that techniques banned under the Heath government in 1972 had been used by the British army and alleged that the base to which Baha Mousa and other Iraqi detainees were confined was small enough so that ‘Unless you were stone deaf, if you were on that base, you knew what was going on.’