Independent inquiry announced into the circumstances surrounding the death of Baha Mousa

14 May 2008

At 3.30pm on Wednesday 14 May on College Green, Liberty Director Shami Chakrabarti and Public Interest Lawyers solicitor Phil Shiner reacted to the announcement by the Secretary of State for Defence of an independent inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 into the circumstances surrounding the death of Baha Mousa, the 26 year old Iraqi who was tortured and killed in UK detention.

Liberty welcomes this announcement. To ensure lessons are learned and public confidence restored, the inquiry must satisfy the following conditions: 

- To be properly independent the inquiry must be led by a senior judge.

- The investigation must establish the specific facts, reveal the wider context in which this death occurred and provide accountability.

- Army policy and training on the treatment of detainees must be examined.

- There must be sufficient public scrutiny to ensure transparency.

- The victim’s family must be involved in the process.
 Liberty Director Shami Chakrabarti said:

“We are delighted that the Defence Secretary and Chiefs of Staff have at last agreed to a public inquiry to learn long-term lessons from this terrible case. The British Military is completely right to seek to discover how torture techniques banned by the Heath Government in 1972 came to be used against vulnerable detainees in Iraq.”

“Phil Shiner is the lawyer who made this possible. His relentless work on behalf of the families of British soldiers and Iraqi civilians demonstrates the even-handedness of human rights.”

Contact: Mairi Clare Rodgers on 020 7378 3656 or 07973 831 128

Notes to Editors:

1. Baha Mousa, (digital post-mortem photos of Mr. Mousa are 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 civilians were 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. On 13 March 2007 a military court martial at Camp Bulford found Corporal Payne of the Queen’s Lancashire regiment guilty of inhumane treatment but found the remaining officers and soldiers not guilty of various offences relating to the incident.

2. In June 2007, in the case of Al-Skeini v Secretary of State for Defence , the House of Lords held that the Human Rights Act provides protection to those held in British custody anywhere in the world (including Iraq). Under the HRA, Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights requires not only that that lives are protected, but also that deaths in custody are effectively and independently investigated. On 27 March 2008 the Ministry of Defence admitted violating the human rights of Baha Mousa.