Baha Mousa Inquiry delivers damning verdict on MoD’s “corporate failure”

08 September 2011

Today Liberty welcomed the Baha Mousa Inquiry’s findings that “corporate failure” at the Ministry of Defence was to blame for the banned interrogation methods that resulted in the death of the Iraqi civilian.

Inquiry chairman Sir William Gage found Mr Mousa died after being subjected to “appalling” and “gratuitous” violence at the hands of UK soldiers guilty of serious breaches of discipline. He suffered 93 separate injuries. While ruling out entrenched bad practice in the Army, Sir William issued a series of 73 recommendations to the MoD and stressed they be implemented as soon as possible.

The Baha Mousa Inquiry Report, published today, revealed that:

  • Mr Mousa was subjected to “violent and cowardly abuse and assaults” by British servicemen who were supposed to guard him and treat him humanely;
  • The events that led to his death were not a “one off”. There were other examples of “abuse and mistreatment of Iraqi civilians” by 1 Queen’s Lancashire Regiment soldiers. However, the disciplinary failures were not widespread enough to suggest an “entrenched culture of violence within 1 QLR”;
  • Shortcomings meant there was no order or accessible MoD doctrine at the time of Mr Mousa’s death prohibiting the five interrogation techniques at issue. As the MoD has now admitted, the five tactics should have been banned in all situations and on all operations;
  • The MoD position developed over decades and was the product of both failings and missed opportunities. It is therefore “fair and appropriate” to conclude it was a result of a “corporate failure” by the MoD.

Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, said:

“Following Sir William Gage’s damning findings, last week’s supposed “leak” is beginning to look suspiciously like an attempt to put a positive spin on a scandal at the Ministry of Defence. The Judge did not find entrenched bad practice in the Army but he did find “corporate failure” in the MoD.

“We vividly remember just how strenuously some senior officials, lawyers and former ministers resisted the creation of this Public Inquiry into such appalling human rights abuse. They should all search their consciences about how they allowed the five inhuman interrogation practices to be deemed acceptable.

“By contrast, the lawyers who fought so hard for transparency in this matter have brought as much honour to their profession as the individual named soldiers have brought shame to theirs.”

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  1. Baha Mousa (digital post mortem photos available), aged 26, was arrested during a raid by UK Armed forces at Haitham Hotel, detained and beaten to death by UK soldiers. He had been taken with eight others to the UK’s Temporary Detention Facility. The individuals were allegedly subjected to prolonged hooding with sandbags, prolonged stress positions such as sitting on an imaginary chair, prolonged sleep deprivation, ritualised abuse through kickboxing games where soldiers apparently competed to kick the detainees further across the room and prolonged beatings including kicking. On 13 March 2007 a military court martial at Camp Bulford found Corporal Payne of the Queen’s Lancashire regiment guilty of inhumane treatment and found not guilty the remaining officers and soldiers charged with various offences relating to the incident.


  2. Lawyers Phil Shiner and others representing the Iraqi detainees expressed concern that “conditioning” tactics such as hooding, handcuffing, sleep deprivation and using stress positions during interrogation, which were outlawed in 1972 by Edward Heath’s Government, had been used on Iraqi detainees held in UK custody.


  3. In Al-Skeini v Secretary of State for Defence, the appellants argued that the six Iraqi civilians killed during the occupation of Iraq had their rights breached under Article 2 (the right to life) and/or Article 3 (the prohibition against torture) of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Government is therefore obliged to hold an independent inquiry into their treatment. The High Court and the Court of Appeal found that the Human Rights Act applies in situations where an individual is detained by a British authority, in this case, the military. In June 2007, The House of Lords (by a margin of 4 to 1) upheld this view. Interveners in the case included Liberty, the Aire Centre, Amnesty International, the Association for the Prevention of Torture, the Bar Human Rights Committee, British Irish Rights Watch, Interights, Justice, Kurdish Human Rights Project, the Law Society of England and Wales and the Redress Trust.


  4. To read the Baha Mousa Inquiry report in full, visit the Inquiry website: