Britain admits its troops abused Iraqi prisoners

Luke Baker
Brisbane Times
Friday, March 28, 2008

LONDON - Britain's Defence Ministry is to admit that its troops tortured and breached the human rights of nine Iraqi men they detained in southern Iraq in 2003, opening the way to potentially large compensation claims.

The decision follows years of legal wrangling in which the family of Baha Musa, an Iraqi hotel worker who was beaten and died in British custody, and eight other Iraqis who survived the beatings, have sought justice.

The ministry, which will make the admission in the High Court tomorrow, said today it was doing so to try to smooth the process of paying compensation to Musa's family and the eight other Iraqis and end lengthy court proceedings.

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The case was one of the British military's darkest episodes in Iraq. All nine detainees suffered 36 hours of violent interrogation before Musa died with 93 injuries to his body, including a broken nose and ribs.

"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 Musa and the eight others," armed forces minister Bob Ainsworth said in a statement issued along with the ministry's admission of its breach of human rights.

"During 2003 and 2004, a very small minority committed acts of abuse and we condemn their actions."

Lawyers for Musa's family and the eight others welcomed the decision but said it was still not clear what compensation would be paid and whether the ministry would issue a formal apology.

"It's definitely a very welcome step," said Sapna Malik, a lawyer with Leigh Day, which represents the claimants.

"We spoke with Baha Musa's father today and he definitely felt that this was an admission of guilt and in some senses a victory for them. It's an acknowledgment that Iraqi lives are not cheap, that they do count," she said.

Full article here.

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