Baha Mousa died of 93 injuries inflicted by a number of soldiers none of whom have been held to account in what the judge in the court martial found to be “ a result of a more or less obvious closing of ranks”. He had been beaten, subjected to stress techniques and hooded and responsibility for that lies, again in the words of the judge, “at brigade and beyond”.
In the same incident another man was beaten and tortured so badly that he nearly died of renal failure. Another five men were seriously injured.
This successful House of Lords judgment means that there must be a full, public and independent inquiry into what went wrong. This inquiry will have to explore issues arising from what is on the public record in these proceedings (R (Al Skeini) v The Secretary of State for Defence).
These issues include:
1) A policy that led to the dropping of the 1972 ban on hooding, stressing, sleep deprivation, food deprivation and noise.
2) A written policy on hooding detainees that reflected verbal and written NATO policy.
3) That all battle groups were hooding despite temperatures of 140oF, sometimes in three sandbags or even old plastic cement bags.
4) That there was complete confusion at the highest level as to what was lawful or not.
5) That when the Head of Army Legal Services blew the whistle on hooding and stressing he was told that the Attorney-General had advised that the Human Rights Act did not apply, and accordingly lower legal standards were followed.
6) That interrogators were trained to hood, stress and sleep deprive.
8) That as early as May 2003 there had been a number of deaths in custody with various UK units.
It seems clear that serious errors of judgment have been made at senior levels both within the military and the Government. It is clear also that senior military figures have blamed the Government for a complete lack of support and failure to plan for the occupation. The family of Baha Mousa, the victims of all these incidents and the public are entitled to know the answers to some pressing questions:
Bearing in mind the noise of the soldiers shouting abuse, the screaming of the prisoners and the relatively small scale of the site, who in command knew or ought to have known what was going on in the crucial 36 hours before Mousa died?
Who knew or ought to have known that the banned techniques had been reintroduced, including a written policy on hooding?
How is it that at the highest levels even after Mousa had died there was ignorance of the fact of the 1972 ban?
On what basis did the Attorney-General unequivocally advice that hooding, stressing and other banned techniques were absolutely prohibited, and that the Convention against Torture did not apply?
It is imperative that the Government and military face up to these issues. Further efforts to suppress material and legitimate debate must stop. There must be an independent inquiry now and the public must demand that certain key reforms of the military system are put in place so that, as a nation, we are never again disgraced and diminished by incidents where our soldiers torture and kill in detention.
If the British Government and military are forced to face up to these issues and respond with key reforms to the British military system then it might not be the case that, Baha Mousa, and other Iraqis, died for nothing.