Mousa inquiry 'to clear Army of systematic abuse'

Baha Mousa with his wife and children
Image caption Baha Mousa's wife had died of cancer not long before his arrest

An inquiry into the death of a hotel receptionist in British custody in Iraq in 2003 will clear the Army of systematic torture, it is reported.

But individual soldiers will be accused of "closing ranks" and dereliction of duty, and the Army's command chain criticised, the Sunday Telegraph says.

Sir William Gage's inquiry into claims that troops beat Baha Mousa to death will publish its findings in September.

The Ministry of Defence said it would look carefully at the inquiry's report.

It said more than 100,000 service personnel served in Iraq and the vast majority conducted themselves with "extraordinary courage, professionalism and decency in very demanding circumstances".

Nevertheless, it said, the actions that led to the death of Mr Mousa were "shameful and inexcusable".

"Lessons have been learned and much has been done since 2003, but we look forward to the inquiry's report and will look carefully at any recommendations they make," it said.

93 injuries

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.

Rifles, bayonets and suspected bomb-making equipment were found at the scene. Mr Mousa was held at a temporary detention centre with the other civilians, under suspicion of being an insurgent

The father-of-two died two days after his arrest. A post-mortem examination found he had suffered asphyxiation and at least 93 injuries to his body, including fractured ribs and a broken nose.

A six-month court martial - the most expensive in British history - concluded in April 2007 after an initial Royal Military Police investigation into the mistreatment of detainees including Mr Mousa.

Six members of the QLR, which now forms part of the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, were cleared of abusing civilian detainees, but a seventh admitted inhumane treatment. Cpl Donald Payne was jailed for a year and dismissed from the Army.

In March 2008, the Ministry of Defence admitted breaching the human rights of the detainees held in Basra.

Two months later, then Defence Secretary Des Browne announced the public inquiry into Mr Mousa's death.

'Conditioning' methods

The inquiry into Mr Mousa's death and treatment of other detainees, chaired by retired Court of Appeal Judge Sir William Gage, began hearing evidence in July 2009.

It sat for 115 days and heard evidence from some 247 witnesses, while a further 101 witnesses provided written statements.

It was told British soldiers used "conditioning" methods on Iraqi prisoners such as hooding, sleep deprivation and making them stand in painful stress positions.

These techniques were outlawed by the UK government in March 1972 after an investigation into interrogation in Northern Ireland.

The inquiry has also been investigating who in authority sanctioned, condoned or ought to have known of their use in Iraq.

The Telegraph quotes an unnamed senior Army officer as saying: "The inquiry has found no evidence of systematic abuse because there wasn't any.

"That is not to say that abuse did not happen but claims that there was a culture or a conspiracy to torture alleged insurgents has not been proved."

The inquiry, which cost £12.5m, will also be critical of the initial investigation into Mr Mousa's death, the newspaper says.

A second inquiry into abuse allegations began in November 2010 and is expected to last two years. Known as the Iraq Historic Allegations Team, it is led by a former head of Staffordshire CID, Geoff White.

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