Second Preliminary Hearing
On 12th November 2010, the Inquiry held a second preliminary Hearing in order to bring up-to-date everyone who has an interest in the progress of the Inquiry.
In summary, the Inquiry made the following clear:
The Inquiry has designated the following as Core Participants to the Inquiry:
seven of the nine detainees who were held at Camp Abu Naji during 14th to 15th May 2004 (represented by PIL);
the uncle of Hamid Al Sweady, one of the Iraqis who died during 14th May to 15th May 2004 (represented by PIL);
the Ministry of Defence ("MoD");
the Treasury Solicitor, who it is expected will represent the majority of those witnesses who are or were formerly military or civilan employees of the MoD.
The MoD initially provided the Inquiry with 32,000 pages of material, but the state of that material meant that it has taken an Inquiry team of four paralegals three months to sort and de-duplicate it. There was in the region of 57% duplication, so the material has been reduced substantially in quantity. This material is being disclosed to the Core Participants in a staged process. Material which the Inquiry Investigation team generates will be disclosed thereafter.
Interviews with Iraqi nationals
The Inquiry is continuing to interview those Iraqi nationals it has identified may have information relevant to the Inquiry's Terms of Reference and List of Issues. It is not possible to travel to Iraq in order to do this, so the Inquiry has been meeting these witnesses in Beirut, Lebanon. There they are interviewed and statements taken. Many of these witnesses are represented by PIL, whose assistance throughout the process the Inquiry kindly acknowledged.
This process is taking far longer than anticipated not least because there are more witnesses to be interviewed than it was first envisaged. The Inquiry has engaged the services of an agent in Iraq who is helping to identify those witnesses who may have information of relevance to the Inquiry. A number of potentially very important witnesses have already been interviewed and their statements taken. It is expected that the interviewing of the remaining witnesses may conclude by late May 2011.
Interviews with other witnesses
The Inquiry has written to the legal representaitves of those witnesses who are or were formally employed by the MoD, and who the Inquiry considers may be able to provide relevant information. It is estimated that this process may take in the region of four months. PIL hopes that the level of cooperation it has achieved with the Inquiry in agreeing to be interviewed by the Inquiry Investigation Team is replicated elsewhere.
It is not possible to give a definite timetable, but Counsel to the Inquiry, Jonathon Acton-Davis QC, indicated that, given the ongoing investigative work, he does not expect to be able to open the Inquiry before Summer 2011, with oral Hearings commencing shortly thereafter.