Police to pursue lines of inquiry that warrant further attention in killing of Iraqi hotel receptionist by British troops
The death of Baha Mousa is to be reinvestigated by police 10 years after the Iraqi hotel receptionist was tortured to death by British troops, a Ministry of Defence inquiry has announced.
The Iraq Historic Allegations Team (Ihat), a police unit led by a civilian former detective, said a dedicated team would pursue a number of lines of inquiry that it believed warranted further attention.
A series of legal battles mounted by lawyers representing Mousa’s father made the killing by troops from the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment the most notorious of a number of deaths in British military custody following the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Ihat is investigating 44 allegations of unlawful killing, including 12 deaths in custody, and 85 allegations of the mistreatment of prisoners. By the end of 2012 the MoD had paid millions of pounds in compensation to hundreds of Iraqis who had brought civil claims for unlawful detention and mistreatment.
Ihat says any evidence uncovered by its 145-strong team that shows abuses to have been systemic – the result of soldiers acting in accordance with their training and orders – will not be referred to military prosecutors but instead will be included in a file handed to the MoD.
The death of Mousa, 26, led to a court martial that ended in 2007 with six soldiers being cleared of a number of offences and one being jailed for a year after admitting inhumane treatment. The judge said other soldiers escaped prosecution “because there is no evidence against them as a result of a more or less obvious closing of ranks“.
Changes in so-called double jeopardy law allowing people to be prosecuted a second time after an acquittal – introduced into English criminal law as a direct result of the Stephen Lawrence case – were extended last month to the UK’s military justice system.
Following the court martial, a public inquiry was forced upon the MoD after lawyers representing Mousa’s father argued that the dead man had suffered “substantive breaches” of his rights under the European convention on human rights.
The inquiry concluded that prisoners had been subjected to hooding, sleep deprivation, forced into painful stress positions for prolonged periods and “subjected to violent and cowardly abuse and assaults”. Mousa died after suffering fractures, acute renal failure, starvation, dehydration and damage to skeletal muscle tissue.
Although the inquiry was confined to examining the circumstances surrounding Mousa’s death, it concluded that there was “more than a hint” that such abuses had been more widespread among British troops in Iraq.