Page last updated at 05:12 GMT, Friday, 5 February 2010

Lawyers want UK public inquiry into Iraq abuse

A British soldier in Iraq
Allegations have been made about the conduct of some British soldiers in Iraq

A group of lawyers is attempting to secure a public inquiry into how UK forces treated detainees in Iraq.

Public Interest Lawyers will lodge a claim for judicial review on behalf of all the alleged victims on Friday.

Because so many similar cases have come to light, a single inquiry should be held into the UK's detention policy in south-eastern Iraq, the firm says.

Armed Forces Minister Bill Rammell said: "Our view remains that a public inquiry is not justified."

The allegations include claims that British troops subjected Iraqi prisoners to rape, sexual humiliation and torture.

The law firm is currently representing 66 Iraqis who claim they were abused by British troops.

It said the Ministry of Defence, Royal Military Police and the courts could not hope to deal with all the cases individually within a reasonable timescale.

'Rational option'

Solicitor Phil Shiner said: "There are so many cases and so many have so much in common - similar allegations at similar facilities, often involving the same people.

"We can't have these dragged out over 10 or 15 years. This is the only rational option."

All allegations of abuse will be investigated thoroughly and, where proven, those responsible punished and the complainants compensated
Bill Rammell, armed forces minister

Two public inquiries have already been launched into allegations that British troops abused Iraqis.

The first, into the death of 26-year-old hotel worker Baha Mousa in UK military custody in September 2003, began hearing evidence last July.

In November, the Ministry of Defence announced details of a second inquiry into allegations that 19-year-old Hamid Al-Sweady and up to 19 other Iraqis were unlawfully killed and others ill-treated at a British base in May 2004.

Mr Rammell said: "Over 120,000 British troops have served in Iraq and the vast, vast majority have conducted themselves with the highest standards of professionalism.

"All allegations of abuse will be investigated thoroughly and, where proven, those responsible punished and the complainants compensated.

"Allegations must not be taken as fact and formal investigations must be allowed to take their course without judgments being made prematurely.

"Our view remains that a public inquiry is not justified, but the MoD is considering this again and will respond in due course."



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