The High Court yesterday gave the go ahead for a legal challenge over the torture of Iraqi civilians at the hands of UK troops.
The President of the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court, Sir Anthony May, sitting with Mr Justice Silber, granted permission for a judicial review in the case brought by over 100 Iraqi civilians challenging the government’s refusal to order a public inquiry into their torture and abuse at the hands of UK soldiers and interrogators during the period April 03 to December 08.
Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) said: ‘The victims showed the court the overwhelming evidence that their abuse was not isolated incidents, but arose out of widespread and systemic practices such as the use of sexual humiliation and abuse and physical and psychological torture during prolonged interrogations lasting over 30 days.
‘The MoD instead prefers to fight each and every judicial review claim, at the loss of time and great expense, and to commence what the victims characterise as a damage limitation exercise: initiating criminal investigations of individual soldiers – known as “IHAT” whilst repeating that there is no evidence of systemic abuse.
‘The High Court disagreed with this analysis, stating: “There is an arguable case that the alleged ill-treatment was systemic, and not just at the whim of individual soldiers”. It went on to express disquiet regarding the effectiveness of the MoD’s investigations, stating: “The. . . arrangements are not hierarchically or institutionally independent.
‘ “They do not enable the claimant’s sufficient participation. Postponement of a public investigation would not achieve sufficient promptness where some allegations are already quite old, and where there is a substantial risk that IHAT’s investigation will not be effective.” The case will now proceed to a full High Court hearing early in the Autumn.’
PIL’s Phil Shiner, the solicitor for all of the Iraqis said: ‘There are now 100s of Iraqi civilians making 1,000s of allegations of being subjected to repeated sexual, physical and psychological abuse. Much of this occurred during their prolonged interrogations by the Joint Forward Interrogation Team in Iraq.
‘The MoD’s claim that this is the result of the actions of a few bad apples has been shown by the High Court to be untenable. The Court has today sent a clear signal that they expect the truth to be uncovered and these matters efficiently and fully investigated. This must take place in a public forum, not behind closed doors at the MoD.’
Sam Jacobs, also of Public Interest Lawyers, added: ‘It’s time to cut the knot. For too long the MoD has sought to defend these cases by denying the veracity of allegations and instituting investigations by its own Royal Military Police.
‘Time and again, these responses have been found wanting. It is time for the MoD to face up to these 1,000’s of allegations, and order the inquiry sought by these victims. We are dealing here not with complicity in torture, but with torture at the hands of the British state.’
PIL noted: ‘Over the past few months there have been a series of new revelations about the UK’s detention policy in South East Iraq. These revelations have made headline stories around the world and include:
‘Baha Mousa was by no means the only Iraqi unlawfully killed (or murdered) by UK Forces inside UK facilities. UK Forces routinely ill-treated/abused Iraqis (leaving aside the use of coercive interrogation techniques).
‘The Five Techniques banned from Northern Ireland returned as Standard Operating Procedure.
‘Coercive interrogation techniques used by interrogators within the Joint Forward Interrogation Team went much further than the Five Techniques.
‘The number of Iraqis coming forward claiming that they have been tortured is increasing. UK Forces routinely detained Iraqis for months/years without due process apparently for no good reason (and in circumstances where even the lower standard of internment for imperative reasons of security could not be met).
‘UK Forces routinely used techniques designed to sexually humiliate/debase male Muslims.’