THE Secretary of State for Defence will today announce in Parliament the establishment of a public inquiry into the incident of alleged mistreatment and murder of prisoners at Camp Abu Naji, a British base in SE Iraq, in May 2004.
The Chairman of the Inquiry will also be named. This will be the second public inquiry into the mistreatment of Iraqi civilians by British forces: the Baha Mousa Public Inquiry is currently underway.
The Secretary of State’s announcement follows two highly critical High Court judgments in the R (Al-Sweady & others) v Secretary of State for Defence proceedings in which the Court lamented the government’s failures to disclose relevant material and the misrepresentation of key evidence by Colonel Dudley Giles, the Deputy Provost Marshall and head of the Special Investigations Branch of the Royal Military Police.
An ensuing BBC investigation uncovered further evidence that the Royal Military Police had failed to investigate many other cases of possible abuse.
The Public Inquiry will examine whether UK soldiers murdered a number of Iraqis and tortured another nine survivors on the night of 14 May 2004, throughout which they were interrogated.
Public Interest Lawyers represents six of the nine prisoners and Khuder Al-Sweady, a relative of Hamid Al-Sweady, a 19 year old alleged to have been killed at the British base.
They commenced judicial review proceedings seeking an open and independent investigation into the allegations after years of mishandled and inadequate investigation by the Royal Military Police.
Public Interest Lawyer Phil Shiner said: ‘These allegations are incredibly serious yet the government has continuously delayed dealing with them since they were first made in 2004.
‘Only when the government reluctantly handed over documents showing that even Tony Blair was to be briefed about the allegations in 2004 and that the Royal Military Police’s investigation had been misrepresented to the Court, did the Secretary of State concede the inquiry that my clients have been seeking for many years.
‘At last my clients may get what they have been seeking for so long: the truth.’
On 14 May 2004 there was a major firefight at a permanent vehicle checkpoint known as ‘Danny Boy’ on Route 6 (the road between Baghdad and Al-Amara) in Maysan Province, South East Iraq.
On the day following the battle, 20 dead Iraqis were taken in body bags from the nearby British base, Camp Abu Naji (CAN), and handed over to the Iraqi authorities. At this time many Iraqi families demonstrated in public that their relatives had been taken alive to CAN and murdered. Eye witnesses at the time support this.