[R-G] Seven Iraqis die in British custody. How many soldiers are charged? None
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Mon May 3 19:05:47 MDT 2004
02 May 2004
The Independent (UK)
Seven Iraqis die in British custody. How many soldiers are charged? None
This is not the first incident to involve the Queen's Lancashire Regiment
and allegations of brutality.
Andrew Johnson and Severin Carrell report
Amid the furore caused by yesterday's publication of photographs showing
British troops abusing Iraqi prisoners were claims by the Ministry of
Defence and General Sir Michael Jackson, the Chief of the General Staff,
that the photographs were of an isolated incident caused by the "ill
discipline of a few soldiers".
But it is a year and two days since Ather Karen al-Mowafakia died in British
custody in Basra. During the next five months another six men died while in
the custody of British soldiers.
And it is four months since the first details of these deaths first emerged
in The Independent on Sunday, when our Middle East correspondent, Robert
Fisk, gave an account of the death of Baha Mousa, 26, a hotel receptionist.
Mr Mousa was allegedly beaten to death in September by members of the
Queen's Lancashire Regiment - the same regiment shown abusing prisoners in
yesterday's photographs. Kifah Taha, a hotel worker arrested at the same
time as Mr Mousa and who suffered acute renal failure after being kicked by
soldiers during questioning, said each of the Iraqis was given a nickname:
"They called us by the names of footballers and kept telling us to repeat
them, so we would remember who we were."
A year after the first death, and six months after the last, the Royal
Military Police (RMP) is still investigating six cases. No disciplinary
action has been taken against any soldier, and no soldier has been charged,
although in the case of Mr Mousa possible manslaughter charges are being
considered by the Army Prosecuting Authority.
Frustrated at this lack of progress, Mr Mousa's father, Colonel Daoud Mousa,
a senior police officer, has decided to go to the High Court in London on
Wednesday to seek compensation and a full judicial inquiry into his son's
death. It is the first case of its kind involving British forces in Iraq.
The failure to clear up the cases quickly led to charges yesterday that the
MoD was involved in a "cover up". The other six cases are:
* Ather Karen al-Mowafakia, who died on 29 April. No more is known about
* Radhi Natna, who died on 8 May. The RMP investigation concluded that he
died from natural causes after a heart attack and that no further action
needed to be taken. But his family says that he had no history of heart
trouble, and questions remain over his treatment.
* Ahmad Jabber Kareem Ali, 17, also died on 8 May. According to his friend
Ayad Salim Hanoon, the two were arrested in Basra by British troops, taken
to the Shatt al-Basra waterway and ordered to swim across. Ayad said: "We
reached the deepest point but Ahmad couldn't swim. He sank and I couldn't
* Abd Al Jubba Mousa, 53, a headmaster, died on 17 May. He was seen being
beaten with rifle butts as he was led away by British troops.
* Said Shabram died on 24 May. Nothing more is known about him.
* Hassan Abbad Said, died on 4 August. Nothing more is known about him.
Details of the seven men who died only emerged through a series of questions
tabled by the Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price following Robert Fisk's report in
September. Yesterday Mr Price said: "How can the Ministry of Defence be
surprised about these photographs? These allegations about the Queen's
Lancashire Regiment have been in the public domain for six months. Clearly
there has been disgusting treatment by a small minority of soldiers.
"But what seems to have happened is that there has been a cover up by people
higher up in the hierarchy of the Army. The deaths in custody happened over
a period of five months, involving different regiments. The pattern of abuse
has been similar ... To say this is an isolated incident is wrong. Seven
people have lost their lives. No one has been charged one year on."
The regiments involved in allegations of abuse include the Royal Fusiliers
and Black Watch, as well as the QLR.
Further evidence of brutality by British troops is included in a report
published by Amnesty International. It said: "Many detainees have alleged
they were tortured and ill-treated by US and UK troops during interrogation.
Methods often reported include prolonged sleep deprivation; beatings;
prolonged restraint in painful positions, sometimes combined with exposure
to loud music; prolonged hooding and exposure to bright lights. Virtually
none of the allegations of torture or ill-treatment has been adequately
It quotes the case of Abdallah Khudran al-Shamran, a Saudi Arabian national,
who claimed he was threatened with execution by a British officer while in
hospital in Basra where he was recovering from beatings and electric shocks
administered by the Americans.
Yesterday's photographs were not the first to shock the British public.
Eleven months ago photographs showing Iraqi prisoners strung up in a net
from a fork lift truck were published in The Sun. Again the investigation
launched by the Ministry of Defence into the soldiers who were allegedly
involved, including Gary Bartlam, 18, of the Royal Fusiliers, has not been
A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said this week that some soldiers were
facing charges but the Army Prosecuting Authority had not yet decided
whether or not the charges should be brought. They are believed to involve
indecent and cruel conduct. But the soldiers are still serving, some in
The MoD has consistently denied that hoods are routinely used against Iraqi
prisoners. But last month the Defence minister Adam Ingram did admit that,
"members of the armed forces may only use blindfolds on apprehended
individuals for reasons of operation security, such as when there is
movement through military-sensitive areas."
Little is known about the seven men who died. The MoD is refusing to release
any personal details, such as age or occupation. Mr Ingram has admitted that
even the cause of death is not in the scope of the RMP inquiries.
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