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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 January, 2004, 11:18 GMT
Iraq civilian deaths probe demand
UK troops forced to intervene during Basra protest
UK troops had to intervene during a demonstration in Basra on Tuesday
An independent ombudsman should lead inquiries into the deaths of Iraqi civilians allegedly killed by coalition forces, an MP has said.

Adam Price of Plaid Cymru wants an "impartial" non military investigation.

His call comes after the MoD said it had paid 8,125 in compensation to the families of three Iraqi civilians allegedly killed by UK troops.

Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram said the current complaints procedure was sufficiently independent and robust.

As well as the three deaths for which compensation had been paid, the MoD was also investigating claims over the deaths of 13 other Iraqi civilians since 1 May, a spokesman said.

The payouts were not an admission of guilt, he stressed, adding that all the deaths were still being investigated by the Royal Military Police (RMP).

It is not enough for the army to investigate the army
Lesley Warner,
Amnesty International UK
But Mr Price said it was "simply not acceptable for the military to be investigating themselves and deciding on an ad hoc basis whether or not to award ex gratia payments to the families of the deceased".

In a Commons debate on Wednesday, he called for an independent investigation into all allegations of civilian deaths involving coalition forces.

This could involve "possibly the appointment of an independent ombudsman in the coalition [provisional] authority that could oversee all complaints," he said.

Mr Price's call was backed by human rights group Amnesty International UK, which said it was "imperative" that all investigations into alleged civilian deaths at the hands of UK troops were "civilian-led and supervised".

We regard any loss of civilian life as deeply regrettable, and we take our obligations to avoid, or else minimise, civilian casualties extremely seriously
Adam Ingram,
Armed Forces Minister
"Receiving compensation does not mean that justice has been done and been seen to be done," said spokeswoman Lesley Warner.

"All investigations must be prompt, impartial and independent and seen to be so. It is not enough for the army to investigate the army."

But Mr Ingram defended the way in which the RMP carried out its investigations.

'Deeply regrettable'

He said serious cases could be referred to the Army Prosecuting Authority, which was independent of the chain of command and answerable to the Attorney General

"We regard any loss of civilian life as deeply regrettable, and we take our obligations to avoid, or else minimise, civilian casualties extremely seriously," he said.

"Steps to avoid such casualties are integrated into every aspect of military operations.

"Where there is any indication that these measures may have failed, we investigate fully, in order to learn the lessons that will make incidents of civilian death and injury fewer still."

  • The MoD has paid 6,625 to 19 Iraqi civilians allegedly injured in incidents involving British troops.

    A spokesman said 39 further allegations of injury were still being investigated.




  • SEE ALSO:
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    06 Jan 04  |  Politics


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