Lawyers urge inquiry into alleged British abuse of Iraqis
Lawyers for more than 140 Iraqi civilians who claim they were abused by British forces in Iraq began an appeal at London's High Court Friday to force a public inquiry into their treatment.
Public Interest Lawyers brought the action on behalf of the Iraqis after Defence Secretary Liam Fox refused to open a public inquiry into the claims, which date from the March 2003 invasion of Iraq until December 2008.
"There are credible allegations of serious, inhumane practices across a whole range of dates and facilities concerning British military detention in Iraq," lawyer Michael Fordham said at the High Court Friday.
"Is this Britain's Abu Ghraib?" he asked, referring to the prison in Iraq where US soldiers were alleged to have abused and tortured Iraqi detainees.
In a statement, the human rights lawyers said their clients complained of being subject to sexual abuse, including rape and forced adoption of simulated sex positions, as well as prolonged solitary confinement and a lack of food, water or sleep.
A spokesman for Britain's Ministry of Defence said: "These remain unproven allegations of mistreatment.
"The MoD takes all allegations seriously and has already set up the dedicated Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) to investigate them.
"The IHAT is the most effective way of investigating these unproven allegations rather than a costly public inquiry."
Fordham claimed in court that this probe was not sufficiently independent.
When the lawyers won permission to bring the High Court case in July, they had about 100 clients, but this number has now swelled as more people have come forward, a spokeswoman for the firm said.
Other Iraqis who claim to have been abused are taking separate legal action.
An inquiry is also due to report next year into the treatment of Baha Mousa, a hotel receptionist who died in September 2003 after 36 hours in British military custody. He suffered 93 separate injuries.
The High Court hearing is due to take three days but it will likely be longer before a decision is made.
© 2010 AFP