Inquiry opens into UK troops atrocities in Iraq
London: A long-awaited public inquiry into the murder of 20 Iraqi civilians by British troops nine years ago opens in London.
The Al-Sweady Inquiry, named after one of the dead men, 19-year-old Hamid Al-Sweady, will examine claims that British troops unlawfully killed detainees following a gun battle at a checkpoint in Maysan Province, southern Iraq, in May 2004.
It will also look into allegations that detainees captured at the same time were mistreated at a British base, Camp Abu Naji, and at a detention facility at Shaibah Logistics Base between May and September that year.
The inquiry, first ordered by the British government in 2009, is being chaired by a former High Court judge, Thayne Forbes, and began with an opening statement from counsel to the inquiry Jonathan Acton Davis.
The hearings had to await a lengthy police investigation, which ended with no one being charged.
This is while the UK high court had ruled that the Defence Ministry seriously breached its obligations under the Human Rights Act to investigate the death of al-Sweady, while hiding evidence that could lead to troopers’ convictions.
The inquiry team has already taken statements from Iraqi witnesses in Beirut and Istanbul, as well as from military witnesses, and has trawled through mountains of evidence.
Some 15 Iraqis will travel to Britain to give evidence to the inquiry later this month, including Hamid Al-Sweady’s uncle Khuder Al-Sweady and several other detainees.
The inquiry is chaired by Sir Forbes, and is expected to last for about 12 months before reaching any conclusions.
The 2003 invasion of Iraq by a US-led coalition led to numerous instances of human rights violations by occupying troops, including the use of torture, sexual and psychological abuse in the infamous Abu Ghraib prison.
In 2011, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the United Kingdom had breached the European Convention on Human Rights by failing to investigate the killing of five Iraqis by British troops in 2003.
An inquiry into the 2003 death of Iraqi hotel receptionist Baha Mousa while in British custody condemned “inadequate detention procedures, leadership failures, poor training, a loss of discipline, and a lack of ‘moral courage’ among troopers to report abuse,” NGO Human Rights Watch reported. The case led to the first conviction of a British trooper under international war crimes legislation.