Page last updated at 19:30 GMT, Thursday, 10 July 2008 20:30 UK

Iraqis to get 3m in MoD damages

Baha Mousa and his family
Some compensation will go to Baha Mousa's family

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has agreed to pay almost 3m in compensation to Iraqis who were tortured by UK troops in Basra in 2003.

A total of 2.83m will be paid out after nine Iraqi men were mistreated and another man - Baha Mousa, 26, - was beaten to death in custody.

The Iraqis' lawyers and the MoD said they were pleased an amicable deal was reached after negotiations in London.

In March the MoD admitted breaching the human rights of the abused Iraqis.

At that time, Defence Secretary Des Browne said the government admitted "substantive breaches" of parts of the European Convention on Human Rights that protect the right to life and prohibit torture.

A lawyer for the Iraqis said the group had "been through hell over the last few years.

The payout will be divided between eight men who were mistreated, the family of Mr Mousa and the brother of a tenth man who was mistreated but later died in an unrelated incident.

The lawyer said the exact division of the compensation would not be disclosed but a "substantial amount" goes to the estate of Mr Mousa, to support his two children and two other people.

A very small minority [of troops in Iraq] committed acts of abuse and we condemn their actions - it is right that compensation has been agreed
Ministry of Defence

The Ministry of Defence said the settlement came with an admission of liability by the department as well as an apology.

Mr Mousa, a 26-year-old hotel receptionist, was beaten to death in September 2003.

He and the other Iraqi men were arrested at a hotel where weapons and suspected bomb-making equipment were found. Mr Mousa was detained under suspicion of being an insurgent.

Seven members of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment (QLR), now the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, faced the most expensive court martial in British history over the case.

Six soldiers were acquitted after the six-month hearing in Bulford, Wiltshire, but a seventh soldier admitted treating Iraqis inhumanely.

Cpl Donald Payne was jailed for a year and dismissed from the Army.

Mr Mousa's post-mortem examination showed he had suffered asphyxiation and had some 93 injuries to his body.

A public inquiry into his death was announced by Mr Browne in May.

Mr Mousa's father Daoud, speaking in London after the MoD compensation was announced, said: "My son was killed by the British Army through torture and without even questioning him or presenting him with any information about what he was alleged to have done."

'Disgusted'

In response to the compensation agreement, the MoD added: "All but a handful of the more than 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 there committed acts of abuse and we condemn their actions. It is right that compensation has been agreed through mediation."

Our clients have been through hell over the last few years
Martyn Day
Iraqis' solicitor

The statement said the Army had done much to improve procedures and training since the incident but were "not complacent".

During mediation General Freddie Viggers also apologised to the families for "the appalling behaviour of British soldiers" which had left the Army "disgusted", said law firm Leigh Day & Co.

The firm, which represented the Iraqi group, said the compensation was for the children of Baha Mousa and the pain and suffering caused to the victims "at the hands of the British Army".

Senior partner Martyn Day said: "Our clients have been through hell over the last few years and this settlement will go some way to enabling [them] to have some semblance of a decent future life."

The lead solicitor Sapna Malik said her clients were pleased with the award but there were "serious questions" remaining, including the identities of others involved in the abuse.

"There are also very serious questions about why techniques which were banned by the Heath government back in 1972 came to be being used out in Iraq, such as hooding, stressing, and sleep deprivation."

Back in 2004, an answer to a parliamentary question revealed that the Ministry of Defence had paid an undisclosed amount of compensation to the families of three Iraqi civilians allegedly killed by UK troops - but the payouts were not an admission of guilt.




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