Page last updated at 13:37 GMT, Monday, 7 December 2009

Baha Mousa inquiry hears of soldier's detainee concerns

Baha Mousa and his family
A post-mortem examination showed Mr Mousa had at least 93 injuries

A senior British army officer charged over the death of an Iraqi prisoner had raised fears over the treatment of detainees, it has emerged.

Maj Michael Peebles told the inquiry into Baha Mousa's death he feared troops were going "over the top" after a prisoner was punched for no reason.

He told Cpl Donald Payne the behaviour, which left the prisoner with a bloody nose, was "not acceptable down here".

Mr Mousa, a hotel worker, died in custody in Basra in September 2003.

The father-of-two, who was 26, had been in the custody of the former Queen's Lancashire Regiment in Basra.

He died after suffering 93 separate injuries, including fractured ribs and a broken nose.

After the hotel worker's death, Maj Peebles, of the Intelligence Corps, was accused of negligently performing the duty of ensuring the men under his control did not ill-treat Iraqi prisoners, but was later cleared at a court martial.

It seemed he had been hit in the face for no particular reason
Maj Michael Peebles

At the time he was battle group internment review officer with responsibility for deciding whether or not detainees should be held or released.

Maj Peebles denied he had been "specifically" responsible for detainees' welfare but accepted that he was keeping an "eye" on incidents.

Before Mr Mousa's death, Maj Peebles claimed he had approached Cpl Payne because he "did not want soldiers to be over the top or overly robust".

Maj Peebles was asked whether he had any previous concerns about the care and welfare of detainees.

"The only time I had concern was with the bloody nose incident which I dealt with," he said.

War crime conviction

He explained he raised the issue with Cpl Payne, telling him: "That sort of behaviour is not acceptable down here."

Cpl Payne pleaded guilty to inhumanely treating civilians at the court martial in September 2006.

He became the first member of the British armed forces to be convicted of a war crime, which led to him being dismissed from the Army and sentenced to one year in a civilian jail.

Maj Peebles said he had been "alarmed" by the injury to the bloody-nosed prisoner.

"It seemed he had been hit in the face for no particular reason," he told the inquiry.

And, when asked whether he believed it was an assault, Maj Peebles went on: "I do not believe that I thought it was unlawful at the time."

During questioning with Gerard Elias QC, counsel to the inquiry, he also said he did not remember Cpl Payne raising concerns to him about "gratuitous" violence after Mr Mousa's death.

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