Britain's Defence Ministry is to admit that its troops tortured and breached the rights of nine Iraqi men detained in southern Iraq in 2003, paving the way to potentially large compensation claims.
Britain will admit breaching the human rights of an Iraqi who died while held by British troops in Basra in the wake of the 2003 war, opening the way for compensation claims, a minister said Thursday.
The Ministry of Defence will also admit breaching the rights of eight other Iraqi men, said Defence Secretary Des Browne, adding that it would admit "substantive breaches" of parts of the European Convention on Human Rights.
"The Ministry of Defence further accepts that the admitted substantive breaches of the Convention give rise to claims for compensation," Browne added in a written statement, ahead of a hearing at the High Court in London Friday.
A group of Iraqi detainees were arrested by the Queen's Lancashire Regiment at a hotel in Basra, southern Iraq, in September 2003, six months after the US-led invasion.
Baha Mousa, a 26-year-old hotel worker, suffocated when he was forced to the floor with his arms behind his back as the soldiers tried to cuff him, prosecutors charged last September.
They alleged that the detainees were beaten, hooded, deprived of sleep and made to hold themselves in stressful positions over a 36-hour period.
"I deeply regret the actions of a very small number of troops and I offer my sincere apologies and sympathy to the family of Baha Mousa and the other eight Iraqi detainees," said armed forces minister Bob Ainsworth.
He added: "All but a handful of the over 120,000 British troops who have served in Iraq have conducted themselves to the highest standards of behaviour, displaying integrity and selfless commitment.
"But this does not excuse that during 2003 and 2004 a very small minority committed acts of abuse and we condemn their actions."
In June last year Britain's top judicial body ruled that the Iraqi should be protected by European rights rules, in a move welcomed by the man's lawyer as a "massive breakthrough."
In the High Court on Friday the government will admit to breaching the human rights of Mousa and eight others, in the context of legal action taken on their behalf.
The others named are: Mohammed Dhahir Abdulah, Maitham Mohammed Ameen Challab Al-Waz, Satar Shukri Abdullah, Joad Kadhim Jamal Al-Faeaz, Dhahir Abdullah Ali Al-Mansori, Radif Tahir Muslem Alhawan, Baha Hashim Mohamed and Ahmed Taha Mosah.
Last April a British soldier, Corporal Donald Payne, was thrown out of the army and jailed for a year after admitting to inhumane conduct against six civilians, including the one who died.
The director of human rights group Liberty and a lawyer for Mousa and the eight other claimants both called for a full-ranging independent inquiry while the dead man's father, Daoud, welcomed the admission.
"This confession of guilty today is a victory for us," said the Iraqi police force colonel. "Now I can feel that my son's blood wasn't totally lost in vain.
"It seemed as if the Ministry of Defence wanted to cover the truth and thought that Iraqi lives were cheap. This admission shows that our voices can still be heard and that Iraqi lives do count."
Date created : 2008-03-27