FOLLOWING their previous threat of proceedings against the government, 34 Iraqi victims of hooding today issued judicial review proceedings against the government to challenge the ‘Consolidated Guidance to Intelligence Officers and Service Personnel’ announced by David Cameron in Parliament on 6 July 2010.
The Guidance explicitly permits the use of hooding of prisoners, despite the recognised serious health risks associated with the practice (particularly in the heat of Iraq/Afghanistan), its associations with the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, its use at Abu Ghraib, its implications in the death of Baha Mousa, the ban on hooding that had previously been put in place by the MoD, and the ban on hooding announced to parliament on March 2, 1972 by Prime Minister Edward Heath.
The Guidance permits the use of hooding for ‘transit’ and ‘security’ purposes, both of which are nebulous concepts and both of which were cited as justification for the hooding of Baha Mousa.
The Guidance has also thrown into disarray the MoD’s clear prohibition of the practice and is an embarrassment just at the time when the Baha Mousa Public Inquiry turns to consider whether the MoD has learned the lessons of Baha Mousa’s death.
On this evidence, it seems that precious little has been learned.
The Baha Mousa Public Inquiry has already received expert medical evidence that hooding was a potentially contributory factor in his death.
Evidence in that inquiry also showed that MoD policymakers were aware that hooding could lead to death as early as 2004.
It is expected that the Equality and Human Rights Commission will also challenge other aspects of the Guidance if a satisfactory response from the government is not received by them this week.
Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers said yesterday: ‘The government’s new torture guidance was supposed to signal a break with the past.
‘Instead, it has taken a giant step backwards. Until 6 July, the government had banned hooding since its catastrophic use in Northern Ireland in 1972.
‘The re-emergence of this practice was critical in Baha Mousa’s death.
‘The government does Baha Mousa and the inquiry into his death a disservice by presuming to re-introduce this barbaric practice even before that inquiry has a chance to report.’
Daniel Carey, a solicitor at Public Interest Lawyers, said yesterday: ‘The Ministry of Defence has admitted to the Mousa Inquiry that it has struggled over the last seven years to ban the horrific practice of hooding.
‘It now seems it has decided to give up the fight. Iraqi victims of hooding are incredulous that, so long after Abu Ghraib, the UK government still wishes to preserve its right to hood prisoners.’