Birmingham-based Public Interest Lawyers yesterday issued High Court proceedings on behalf of three Iraqi families who allege that their relatives were unlawfully killed by British Forces. The families are calling for a judicial review into the deaths and the MoD’s failure to establish an independent investigation into how and why they occurred.
Hanaan Salih Matrood was eight years old when she was killed in an alleyway near her home in Karmat ‘Ali, Basra on 21 August 2003. British Forces have since accepted the “possibility” that Hanaan may have died as a result of a “warning shot” fired to disperse a crowd. Her family say that a British soldier fired at a group of children. According to her father, British Forces had to be persuaded to take Hanaan to hospital where she later died.
Earlier, on 23 March 2003, British soldiers are alleged to have shot and killed Zaki Mahdi Al-Fhatil outside his home in Qurnat Al-Sharij in Basra. His family states that he was shot in the legs and head. They say that British soldiers began to provide medical treatment to Zaki but then took him into his home and left him there, where he later died. An Iraqi police investigation concluded that Zaki had been killed by British Forces.
The third case is that of a 62 year-old grandmother, Sabiha Khudur Talib. On 14 November 2006, Sabiha was allegedly arrested at her home during a raid by British Forces. Her son was shot dead during the raid. Sabiha was then loaded into a British army vehicle. Later that day, a local Iraqi police unit apparently received a telephone call from British Forces informing them that the body of a woman had been found on the Az-Zubayr highway in Basra. Iraqi police conducted an investigation and found “signs of torture” on Sabiha’s body and a bullet wound to her abdomen. The MoD has previously claimed that, according to its investigations, Sabiha was injured in cross-fire during the house raid and that attempts to revive her failed. They say that her body was handed over to the Iraqi authorities.
The families argue that British Forces are responsible for the arbitrary killing of the victims, relying on provisions of customary international law and the common law that seek to protect the right to life. Where those provisions are breached, there must be an independent and effective investigation that involves the families of the victims and is capable of bringing the perpetrators to justice.
In July, the Court of Appeal will consider separate calls for a public inquiry into the ill-treatment of hundreds of Iraqis detained by the UK over the course of its presence in Iraq.
Phil Shiner, the lawyer acting for the families of Hanaan, Zaki and Sabiha, said today:
“The MoD’s position in these cases is startling. It says that its personnel can indiscriminately fire at and kill young children and the law remains silent. We intend to establish accountability in these cases.”
Mazin Younis is a human-rights activist from the Iraqi Rabita (Iraqi League), an organisation that campaigns on behalf of Iraqis. Today he welcomed the High Court application:
“When I visited the family of the Hanaan Matrood in Basra back in 2004, they were in a state of utter shock that the life of their lively child should be taken in such a manner, when children were only rushing to greet the British army patrolling their quiet neighbourhood. They were also dismayed by the lack of an independent investigation. As a nation that respects the sanctity of human life and the rule of law, we ought to address all the issues of unlawful killings that may have involved the British army in Iraq.”
For further information, please contact: Phil Shiner or Jim Duffy on 0121 515 5069.