The public inquiry into the death of Iraqi hotel worker Baha Mousa in British army custody and the torture of six other Iraqis began its first proper phase this week.
Although the trial, which is expected to last a year, is in its infancy, serious questions have already been raised over the guidelines laid down by the army for the interrogation and treatment of detainees.
Mr Gerard Elias QC for the inquiry, who has previously represented the British army at the Saville inquiry into Bloody Sunday, has meticulously laid out army protocols, raising a number of issues.
In particular, he queried why the guidelines for combat troops contained no reference to the use of techniques during internment in Northern Ireland in 1971, which are very similar to those used on Mr Mousa and the other detainees.
That case ruled that such practices, including hooding, stress positions, sleep deprivation and beatings, amounted to mistreatment.
He raised the question of whether the response of the MoD, Defence Intelligence Services and serving commanders was “adequate.”
Turning to the events immediately before and during the period that the detainees were held by the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment in Basra, Mr Elias said that a well-respected officer had been killed a month previously and a number of military police had been murdered at al-Amara.
It was suggested that this may have been a reason for the mistreatment.
The men had been arrested after a weapons cache was discovered at the Haitham Hotel, where the majority of them worked.
The inquiry heard repeated evidence – both from detainees and military personnel – of savage brutality inflicted by the soldiers from punching and “martial arts kicks” to repeated and sustained use of stress positions. All are acts which breach the Geneva Convention.
Mr Elias referred to previous evidence by a number of those accused of perpetrating the torture.
“If one considers the injuries suffered alongside the current paucity of evidence from soldiers which could explain these injuries, there is what might well be said a compelling argument that at least some of the soliders are not giving a full and truthful account,” he suggested.
Copyright Morning Star