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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 February, 2004, 04:50 GMT
Iraqi death compensation sought
British troops
The MoD says it has paid compensation to families
The UK Ministry of Defence is facing legal action over the deaths of 13 Iraqi civilians.

The lawyers representing the families are demanding more compensation and an MoD inquiry.

The deaths happened over six months from May 2003, and lawyers believe there may be more.

Military files on eight of the cases have been closed, but one has been handed to the Army Legal Services for further investigation.

The cases include a man allegedly killed when British soldiers burst into his house before dawn.

There is also the case of a farmer shot while fixing a water pump and of a 17-year-old who drowned allegedly when British soldiers beat him up and then ordered him to swim across a river.

Compensation

In some cases, witness statements are accompanied by apologetic letters from the British military.

In one, a senior officer expresses regret and offers a donation to the family, while in another a commander says his men were deliberately misled by an anonymous civilian.

The MoD said it paid compensation totalling 15,000 since last May, but it did not accept liability for any of the deaths.

In seven cases, the Royal Military Police (Special Investigations Branch) concluded that rules of engagement had been followed.

In one case, the person was found to have died of natural causes.

Ten cases remain under investigation.

The lawyers said they were demanding improved compensation and an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the Iraqis, who were killed either by stray bullets or when they were bystanders to operations carried out by British troops.

"There must be full damages paid to all these families," said Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers, which is pursuing the claims.

Inquiry wanted

"The MoD must establish a fair and rational compensation scheme so all those who have been affected by unlawful killings, injuries or loss of property, can be compensated without the stress of litigation," he said.

"It is a shock to discover that British troops have caused the deaths of so many innocent Iraqis since our occupation began on May 2, 2003."

The lawyers said they had written to Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon demanding that he immediately set up an inquiry into the deaths, that the MoD accept liability for what the lawyers say are unlawful killings, and that the MoD pay full compensation to the 13 families.

An MoD spokesman said it had received the letter.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Gillian Ni Cheallaigh
"Lawyers for the Iraqi families say these claims are just the tip of the iceberg"



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