British army inquiry: 'appalling gratuitous violence'

Iraqi hotel worker Baha Mousa died after violent and cowardly abuse by British soldiers, a public inquiry in Britain has found.

Inquiry chairperson William Gage published his report on September 8. He described the treatment of Mousa and his fellow detainees in the Iraqi city of Basra in 2003 as "an appalling episode of serious, gratuitous violence on civilians which resulted in the death of one man and injuries to others".

Mousa was detained along with a number of others by members of the 1st Battalion Queen's Lancashire Regiment after a raid on the Ibn al-Haitham hotel in Basra.

The detainees were taken to a Temporary Detention Facility (TDF). They were hooded, handcuffed and forced to stand in stress positions, despite the fact all these techniques had been banned by the British government in 1972.

An autopsy on Mr Mousa showed that he had suffered 93 separate external injuries and a number of internal injuries including broken ribs.

He was hooded and handcuffed for the vast majority of his 36 hours in custody.

Sir William singled out four soldiers for serious criticism whom he said bore a very heavy responsibility for what happened.

The inquiry did not suggest there had been a policy of systematic abuse towards Iraqi suspects, but was scathing about the absence of any "proper MoD [ministry of defence] doctrine on interrogation" and said that there had been "corporate failure".

Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers said it was an "absolute imperative" that prosecutions in a civilian court are brought.

He strongly criticised the Ministry of Defence for resisting the inquiry into the Iraqi abuse scandal.

"The MoD are a disgraceful outfit. Whether one is a British soldier or an innocent Iraqi civilian, they just don't care and they're proud not to care."

[Abridged from www.morningstaronline.co.uk .]