24 December 2012, 17:03

Iraqis sue Britain over torture claims

Iraqis sue Britain over torture claims
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The Ministry of Defence has paid out a total of 14 million pounds to Iraqis who say they were tortured by British troops during the UK’s five-year occupation of southern Iraq. The Mod says the vast majority of British troops in Iraq behaved with integrity and professionalism.Campaigners have gone to the High Court to try to force a public inquiry into the abuse – something the MoD has so far refused.

The sum covers compensation and costs for 205 cases, including 162 cases brought this year. The MoD says further 96 claims for damages are being negotiated as Iraqis discovered that they can sue the British authorities over the alleged torture. Lawyers working for the former prisoners say, more than 700 more individuals are likely to make claims next year. Bill Bowring is a Law Professor at Birbeck College and a Trustee of the NGO Redress, which is helping the Iraqis’ fight for compensation.

The government is now paying out, it has already paid out millions. There’re some 700-more cases. My particular worrying regards the result of the training of the soldiers received and the orders they have been given. These are not just individuals going wrong, it seems to be something structural.

The victims have received average payouts of 70,000 pounds. Many were male civilians suspected of being involved in the insurgency against British occupation. They say there were beaten, deprived of sleep and threatened before being interrogated. Others say there were sexually humiliated and forced to remain in stress positions for extended periods. Many complaints relate to a unit called the Joint Forward Interrogation Team which ran an interrogation center. Interrogators shot video of themselves abusing men who are visibly bruised, complaining of starvation and sleep deprivation and in some cases unable to stand. The International Committee of Red Cross complained about mistreatment of detainees there in 2004. In a statement the MoD confirmed the payouts.

Over 120,000 British troops have served in Iraq and the vast majority have conducted themselves with the highest standards of integrity and professionalism. All allegations of abuse will always be investigated thoroughly. We will compensate victims of abuse where it’s right to do so and seek to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.

Human rights groups and lawyers of the prisoners want a public inquiry into the abuse – something the MoD has so far refused. Campaigners have applied to the High Court for a judicial review of MoD’s decision. Pr. Bowring says the inquiry is needed.

A number of practices that were being used had been banned years ago. Right back in 1780s there was a case of a man against the U.K. at the European Court of Human Rights about the interrogation methods that were being used at that time. The man lost the case, but he was promised that these things would never be used again. And they were – in Iraq!

Campaigners say the U.K. must hold the inquiry because it’s signed up to the European Convention of Human Rights which protects individuals from torture. The MoD says no inquiry is necessary because its own Iraq Historical Allegation Team or IHAT is examining the abuse claims. So far IHAT has referred three people for prosecution, but they were not charged. Also today it emerged that a former army doctor has been struck off the medical register after his misconduct during the death of Iraqi detainee Baha Mousa in 2003. Mr. Mousa had 93 injuries when he died, but the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service said Dereck Keilloh, a medical officer with a Queen’s Lancashire Regiment in Basra failed to report them.

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