UK

Baha Mousa inquiry: Events must never be repeated, PM says

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Media captionDavid Cameron: "Britain does not cover these things up"

Events leading to the death of an Iraqi civilian in British army custody should never be allowed to happen again, Prime Minister David Cameron has said.

He said the 93 injuries sustained by Baha Mousa after banned interrogation methods were used were "shocking".

An inquiry found there was a "serious breach of discipline" by troops.

The head of the Army, General Sir Peter Wall, said the "shameful circumstances" had cast a "dark shadow" over the "high" reputation of the service.

Speaking in Downing Street after inquiry chairman Sir William Gage published his 1,366-page report, Mr Cameron said: "This should not have happened, it should never be allowed to happen again.

"The British Army, as it does, should uphold the highest standards. If there is further evidence that comes out of this inquiry that requires action to be taken, it should be taken."

Some of the soldiers named in the report have been suspended from military service in the wake of the inquiry.

'No excuses'

Mr Mousa was arrested, along with nine other Iraqis, at the Haitham Hotel in Basra on 14 September 2003 by members of the 1st Battalion The Queen's Lancashire Regiment (1QLR).

The hotel receptionist's 22-year-old wife had died of cancer shortly before his detention, meaning his death two days after the arrest left his two young sons orphaned.

The inquiry concluded that the death of the innocent Iraqi was caused by a combination of his weakened physical state and a final bout of abuse.

Mr Mousa was hooded for nearly 24 of the 36 hours he spent in British detention - an interrogation technique which had been banned in 1972.

The head of the Army said moves to introduce many of the 73 recommendations in the report were "well advanced".

Sir Peter added that the incident took place at a time when the Army faced "hostile and intense" challenges but there could be "no excuses".

Presenting his report, Sir William said a "large number" of soldiers assaulted Mr Mousa and the other detainees, and he added that many others - including several officers - must have known what was happening.

He added the death was a "very great stain on the reputation of the Army, and no doubt they did at the time greatly damage some of the good work done by 1QLR and other units in Iraq".

Cpl Donald Payne had violently assaulted Mr Mousa in the minutes before he died, punching and possibly kicking him, and using a dangerous restraint method, the inquiry found.

While this was a "contributory cause" in the death, Mr Mousa had already been weakened by factors including lack of food and water, heat, exhaustion, fear, previous injuries and the hooding and stress positions used.

Payne became the first member of the British armed forces convicted of a war crime when he admitted inhumane treatment at a court martial in 2007. He was jailed for a year and dismissed from the Army.

The inquiry considered why banned interrogation methods, including hooding, white noise, sleep deprivation, food deprivation and painful stress positions, were used during the Iraq campaign.

Sir William found knowledge of this ban - introduced in the UK after an investigation into prisoner treatment in Northern Ireland - had "largely been lost" because of "corporate failure of the MoD".

General Lord Dannatt, the head of the British Army when the Baha Mousa inquiry was set up in 2008, said there was no attempt to cover up anything about Mr Mousa's death.

He told the BBC the hearings "would not have come about had the Army not been open and transparent prior to the inception of this inquiry".