Baha Mousa hooding inhumane, says ex-army chief

Image caption, General Sir Michael Jackson was head of the Army at the time of the death

The former head of the Army has told an inquiry into the death of an Iraqi civilian that the hooding of him and other detainees was inhumane.

General Sir Michael Jackson said the death of 26-year-old Baha Mousa, in Basra in 2003, remained "a stain on the character of the British Army".

The inquiry is investigating claims UK soldiers beat to death Mr Mousa.

It has already heard that Mr Mousa had been hooded for almost 24 hours and systematically beaten.

He was found dead with 93 injuries after being held in the custody of 1st Battalion the Queen's Lancashire Regiment (1QLR).

Gen Jackson was head of the Army when Mr Mousa died, and when several other cases of abuse came to light.

Damaged reputation

He told the inquiry: "I am on record in the aftermath of the dreadful events that led to the death of Baha Mousa, as saying this is a stain on the character of the British army.

"It remains one until we have solved it."

Gen Jackson said the hooding of Mr Mousa and other Iraqis detained with him had been inhumane and contravened the Geneva Conventions.

But he argued against a complete ban on hooding prisoners with sandbags, saying that would "jeopardise security and our operational effectiveness".

Image caption, Mr Mousa died with 93 separate injuries to his body

General the Lord Walker told the inquiry that hooding could be justified at the time prisoners were captured, but that the hooding of Mr Mousa for almost 24 hours had been "totally unacceptable".

Gen Jackson also told the inquiry: "It is absolutely bedrock to the British army's philosophy that a commanding officer is responsible for what goes on within his command."

But he did not name Col Jorge Mendonca, who was commanding officer of 1QLR at the time of the alleged abuse.

Appearing before the inquiry earlier this year, Col Mendonca said that, as commanding officer, he accepted responsibility for Mr Mousa's death.

But he said: "I don't think I could have done better on that tour. I don't think I could have worked harder or thought more carefully about the priorities which presented themselves to me as being the ones which mattered at the time."

Col Mendonca was cleared of all charges relating to the case in a court martial in 2007 but left the Army in anger at his treatment.

Mr Mousa's death badly damaged the reputation of the British military.

Banned techniques

The public inquiry was set up after the court martial found no-one guilty over the death.

It has so far heard from more than 230 witnesses, including soldiers, a former minister and several Iraqis detained with hotel worker Mr Mousa.

Like Mr Mousa they were subjected to hooding and forced into stress positions.

These techniques were banned by the Geneva Conventions and by a government ruling in 1972 following an investigation into interrogation in Northern Ireland.

The inquiry wants to know who in authority sanctioned, condoned or ought to have known of their use in Iraq.

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