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Last Updated: Friday, 25 January 2008, 18:32 GMT
'Changes needed' to Army training
Baha Mousa
Iraqi Baha Mousa had 93 separate injuries when he died in 2003
Changes are needed to rectify serious flaws in the way soldiers are trained to deal with Iraqi prisoners, a senior army officer has said in a report.

But Brig Robert Aitken also said some changes had been made, and there was no evidence of systemic abuse.

The Army report was commissioned after allegations of abuse, including the case of Baha Mousa, 26, who died in custody with 93 injuries in 2003.

Mr Mousa's father said his son was the victim of state-sanctioned violence.


Daoud Mousa said: "These terrible actions could not have taken place without support from senior officers within the British army... I do not accept this report for a second."

Meanwhile lawyers acting for Iraqi civilians said the report was a "whitewash".

The death of Mr Mousa, a hotel receptionist, who died from asphyxiation while in British army custody in Basra, was one of several cases of abuse of Iraqi prisoners that triggered the investigation.

The Aitken inquiry lacks any independence or rigour, is a complete red herring and represents a whitewash
Phil Shiner,
Public Interest Lawyers

The report, commissioned by then Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, said lessons needed to be learned from the incidents.

These happened during the volatile period between 2003 and 2004, when the insurgency in Iraq began after the invasion.

The inquiry said changes to the Army's pre-deployment training needed to be made in order to prevent further abuses.

There were three key recommendations:

  • The Army must learn from the disciplinary process, in the same way as it does from other areas of its operations
  • The Army must find ways to ingrain its high standards, values and standards of behaviour in its personnel
  • The Army must make sure administrative processes were used correctly.

Changes that have already been made include a training video that has been produced by the Army to display some of the lessons learned.

'Condoning abuse'

It tells soldiers only to use plastic cuffs on unco-operative prisoners and never to take photos of prisoners.

But lawyers and civil rights advocates have joined Daoud Mousa in condemning Brig Aitken's final report.

Sapna Malik, lawyer for Baha Mousa's family, said: "From the cases that we've seen, we feel the report only touches on the tip of the iceberg and that these weren't the activities of just a few rogue soldiers, but actually there was a culture condoning abuse on the ground."

Phil Shiner, of Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) which represents civilians alleging abuse while in detention, said his firm was acting in cases apparently involving over 30 deaths in detention, including executions.

"It was standard operating procedure to hood, stress and deprive detainees of sleep, water and food," he said.

"The Aitken inquiry lacks any independence or rigour, is a complete red herring and represents a whitewash."

Investigation called for

Hashmiyah Hassan Umarah, of the Basra Provincial Council, also criticised the report's findings, arguing that there had been "a clear human rights violation" and the soldiers involved "must be punished".

Amnesty International called for "a fully independent investigation" into the death of Mr Mousa.

The former head of the Army, General Sir Mike Jackson said it was "nonsensical" to suggest the report was a whitewash, arguing: "You can never, ever say that it won't happen again because human nature is human nature and some indulge in the black side of human nature."

He said the report showed "this behaviour was not systemic" and was "just done by a handful of people".

And Gen Sir Richard Dannatt, the Army's chief of the general staff, said he was "satisfied that the standards of behaviour are understood by all our people as they operate today in the difficult circumstances of Iraq and Afghanistan".

'Highest standards'

"I take no pride in the activities of a very small number of our soldiers who have been found guilty of abuse in Iraq in 2003, 2004," he said, adding that he is "extremely proud" of his soldiers operating in Iraq and Afghanistan in "very difficult circumstances".

In a written statement to MPs, Defence Secretary Des Browne said the report was rightly critical but had also shown a great deal had been done to rectify the problems.

He stressed that "only the highest standards are acceptable to the Army and the Ministry of Defence as a whole".

Nine people detained at the same time as Mr Mousa also testified to suffering beatings and ill-treatment.

A court martial acquitted six out of seven servicemen, while the seventh was jailed for a year for mistreatment.

No further criminal charges are likely against individuals involved in the death of Mr Mousa, the government is expected to announce.

The report author on the MoD findings

Iraq detainees 'treated humanely'
29 May 07 |  UK Politics

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