Author: By Robert Verkaik, Home Affairs Editor
Click above for the Iraq inquiry video
In the film, Iraqi detainees could be heard moaning and crying out as they
were forced to sit in painful “stress positions” while the soldier
screamed abuse at them. Baha Mousa, 26, a hotel receptionist from Basra, was
so badly beaten by troops from the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment that doctors
who examined his body identified 93 separate injuries, the hearing in London
Gerard Elias, QC, the counsel to the inquiry, said the video showed hooded and
handcuffed detainees being “softened up” before interrogation. One
of the men was Mr Mousa. Mr Elias identified Cpl Donald Payne as the soldier
in the film who was abusing and manhandling each captive in turn as they
dropped to the floor, struggling to maintain their crouched stress
positions. Cpl Payne could be seen standing over one detainee, yelling: “Get
up you fucking ape, now. Get up now.”
Mr Elias said: “Even if one considers only the video that we have just
looked at, it may be thought to be entirely apparent that these detainees
were being subjected to stress positions and prolonged hooding.”
Mr Mousa died at about 10pm on 15 September 2003 after a “struggle”
with Cpl Payne and another soldier, Pte Aaron Cooper, the hearing was told.
Mr Elias said Mr Mousa’s injuries might have been inflicted “with a
greater degree of deliberation” than was previously thought. The
inquiry, led by Sir William Gage, was told that before Mr Mousa died, Cpl
Payne restrained him by putting his knee on his back and pulling his arm
back to attach plastic handcuffs to him.
Mr Elias said: “It has been suggested that Baha Mousa’s head was banged
on the floor or wall as this was happening. But statements to this inquiry
now suggest perhaps a greater degree of deliberation than has hitherto been
described.” Further allegations of abuse of other detainees included
sleep deprivation, withdrawal of food and exposure to loud noises. One
prisoner claimed that a soldier urinated on him, while another said he was
forced to dance like Michael Jackson.
In July last year, the Ministry of Defence agreed to pay £2.83m in
compensation to the families of Mr Mousa and nine other Iraqi men who were
mistreated by British troops. In September 2006, Cpl Payne became the first
member of the armed forces to admit a war crime when he pleaded guilty to
inhumanely treating civilians. He was dismissed from the Army and sentenced
to one year in a civilian jail.
Six other soldiers also faced courts martial but all were cleared in March
2007. They included Colonel Jorge Mendonca MBE, the former commander of the
Queen’s Lancashire Regiment, which is now renamed as the Duke of Lancaster’s
Regiment. Several senior officers later strongly criticised the decision of
the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, to take the cases to court.
Mr Mousa was working at Basra’s Ibn Al-Haitham hotel in September 2003 when it
was raided by British forces looking for weapons. In a safe, the soldiers
found assault rifles and pistols that hotel staff insisted were used for
security, but Mr Mousa and several colleagues were taken to the British base
at Darul Dhyafa in the custody of infantrymen from the Queen’s Lancashires.
Mr Mousa’s 22-year-old wife died of cancer shortly before he was detained.
Their two young sons were orphaned.
The inquiry will investigate beyond the circumstances of Mr Mousa’s death and
the ill-treatment of the other detainees. Mr Elias said: “In
particular, the inquiry is tasked to discover whether, and to what extent,
conditioning techniques were used on these detainees and, if used, what the
consequences were. Who, if anyone, in authority approved, sanctioned or
condoned their use?”
The hearing was told that such techniques were banned by the Conservative
prime minister, Edward Heath, in 1972 after public disquiet about the
treatment of IRA prisoners detained in Northern Ireland under the
controversial internment policy.
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