British soldiers may face charges over torture death
NINETEEN British soldiers could face criminal charges for their role in the death of an innocent Iraqi man after a public inquiry found he had been the victim of "appalling and cowardly" violence while in military custody.
Both military and civilian prosecuting authorities are examining the findings of a three-year inquiry into the death of Baha Mousa (26), a widower and father of two young children, who died after a 36-hour ordeal at the hands of British soldiers.
He died after enduring 93 separate injuries as a result of being kicked, punched and restrained by soldiers in Basra in September 2003.
The inquiry, chaired by William Gage, a retired judge, found the Ministry of Defence guilty of a "corporate failure" to uphold basic standards by allowing rules to go "largely forgotten". While clearing the soldiers' unit, the Queen's Lancashire Regiment, of having an "entrenched culture of violence", he said it was clear that the abuses were not a one-off.
Liam Fox, Britain's defence secretary, said the events described in the report were "deplorable, shocking and shameful" and he instructed the head of the army to take action against any serving personnel who were involved.
Three serving soldiers including an officer have already been suspended from duty as a result.
The 1,400-page report details how the victims spent a day-and-a-half with bags tied around their heads while being forced to stand in "stress positions". Both practices are banned under both UK law and the Geneva Conventions.
The Chief of the General Staff, Sir Peter Wall, said the incident "cast a dark shadow" over the reputation of the Army, while David Cameron condemned the "truly shocking and appalling" abuse.
The £13m (€15m) inquiry singled out 19 soldiers who it concluded were directly involved in the abuse, including some who have already faced unsuccessful prosecution at court martial. Lawyers for families of the victims said there was potentially the evidence to bring new prosecutions against all of them in the civilian courts.
It emerged last night that three soldiers serving in the Army, including an officer, had been suspended from duties and Ministry of Defence sources said they believed another 11 former servicemen could also face charges.
The suspended officer, Major Mike Peebles of the Intelligence Corps, would face a second court martial.
Only Cpl Donald Payne was convicted at the original court martial after pleading guilty to inhumane treatment. He was cleared of manslaughter but jailed for a year. (© Daily Telegraph, London)