The allegations will be unveiled in the high court, when Britain will stand accused of a “systemic” policy of abuse committed over five years, from 2003 to 2008.
At a hearing scheduled over three days from 29 January, lawyers for 180 Iraqis who claim they are victims of abuse, or that their family members were unlawfully killed, will place a file of statements before two judges presiding over the court in London accusing British soldiers and intelligence officers of unlawful interrogation practices. These include hooding and the use of “stress positions”, sexual abuse, beating and religious abuse of illegally detained prisoners. In some cases, the testimonies allege, the torture led to the death of the prisoner.
The statements were compiled during meetings with victims and relatives, mostly in Lebanon, by human rights lawyer Phil Shiner of the Public Interest Lawyers group, based in Birmingham.
The court will rule on whether the abuses were isolated incidents of which commanders, senior ministry officials and politicians were unaware, as the government insists, or “systemic” and authorised as policy. The MoD contends that any general problems of detention and interrogation were dealt with by an inquiry into the death of Baha Mousa, an innocent hotel worker killed while in British custody in Basra in 2003, and continuing internal investigations by its own Iraq Historic Allegations Team.
But the author of a book on the killing of Baha Mousa, Andrew Williams – a law professor at the University of Warwick – says what happened to Baha Mousa “may have shone a torch into a dark corner”, but what is before the court next week is more like “a stadium in which we will switch on the floodlights”.
His counsel team, led by Michael Fordham QC, will present five so-called “state practices” they claim were “unlawful, right to the top”, including illegal interrogation techniques taught at the army intelligence facility at Chicksands, north of London, unlawful detention and unlawful use of lethal force.
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