Case Launched For A Single Inquiry Into UK Soldiers Abuse Of Iraqis

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Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) last Friday, 5 February, lodged papers to commence a judicial review on behalf of 66 Iraqis claiming torture and abuse at the hands of UK soldiers and interrogators during the period May 2003 – December 2007.

The judicial review will argue that, given the common systemic issues, facilities and personnel and that similar allegations of systematic abuse are being made in all cases, the Secretary of State for Defence must hold a single inquiry into the UK’s detention policy in South East Iraq.

The Baha Mousa Inquiry, presently underway is investigating systemic issues following the death of Baha Mousa as to how it came about that it was Standard Operating Procedure to use the five techniques banned by the Heath governments following internment in Northern Ireland: hooding, stress positions, food and water deprivation, sleep deprivation and the use of noise.

On 1 December 2009, the Secretary of State for Defence established the Al Sweady Inquiry.

This will examine allegations that on the night of 14/15 May 2004, following the battle of Danny Boy, a number of Iraqis were executed by UK soldiers at Camp Abu Naji (CAN) and nine survivors tortured and ill-treated.

The Inquiry was announced when the Secretary of State for Defence was forced by his own ‘lamentable failures’ on disclosure to concede the need for an inquiry in the judicial review proceedings brought by the survivors of the incident and a relative of a 17-year-old boy said to have been executed at CAN.

Over the past few months there has 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 that:

• 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;  these included cases involving forcing a 14-year-old to give oral sex to an adult male, forcing Iraqis including this 14-year-old to adopt prolonged simulated anal sex positions, playing Muslims hardcore pornography all night, forcing young men into Abu Ghraib like ‘piled up body positions’, and male rape.

• UK Forces through women routinely debased male Muslims by having sexual intercourse with male soldiers in front of them, exposing their own genitals and breasts, caressing and fondling them and attempting to have sex with them.

There are now so many cases and Claimants that the Ministry of Defence, Royal Military Police and the Court cannot hope to deal with them all individually within any sort of reasonable timescale.

Thus, it will be argued in this fresh judicial review that the only rational approach now is for a single and independent public inquiry into all the issues and cases.

Phil Shiner, the Solicitor for all of the Iraqis said on Thursday: ‘The MOD appear to be about to concede that a single inquiry is required to investigate all of these serious allegations of abuse.

‘The MOD’s suggestion, made in the Telegraph last week, that the Iraqis we act for are bringing fraudulent claims to earn a quick buck is potentially libellous, it has nasty racist undertones and echoes the ill treatment of our clients by British soldiers.

‘My firm meets with those we represent and we see firsthand the serious physical and psychological effects being suffered.

‘By its comments the MOD has insulted the integrity of my firm, the QCs and barristers we instruct and most of all the clients we represent.’

Mazin Younis, Iraqi Human Rights activist, added on Thursday: ‘The single inquiry into all allegations brought forward so far seems to be the most reasonable and practical course of action that needs to be taken to resolve such a large and growing number of allegations.

‘The flow of horrific cases of abuse from Iraq has never stopped, and new claimants who have approached me but not yet thoroughly investigated stands now at an alarming 90 Iraqis, some with very shocking stories.’