Iraqi death probe 'to clear UK army of systematic abuse'

28th August 2011, Comments 0 comments

An independent inquiry into the death of an Iraqi prisoner in British custody in Iraq will clear the army of systematic torture but individual soldiers will be strongly criticised, a report said Sunday.

The British probe has been investigating the death of hotel receptionist Baha Mousa, who died two days after his arrest in September, 2003, in a raid by British forces on suspected insurgents in Basra, southern Iraq.

A post-mortem examination found he had numerous injuries on his body and suffered asphyxiation.

The inquiry, which will publish its findings on September 8, has found no evidence British soldiers were involved in systematic torture and murder of suspected insurgents in southern Iraq, Britain's Sunday Telegraph paper reported.

But the weekly, citing an unnamed senior army officer, said the conduct of serving and former soldiers would be strongly criticised as well as numerous failures by the chain of command.

The inquiry, led by retired judge William Gage, will accuse former members of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment, which detained Mousa, of "closing ranks" and senior officers and serving soldiers of a dereliction of duty, said the report.

"The inquiry has found no evidence of systematic abuse because there wasn't any," the senior officer is quoted as saying by the paper.

"That is not to say that abuse did not happen but claims that there was a culture or a conspiracy to torture alleged insurgents has not been proved."

The British defence ministry refused to comment on the report but it acknowledged that the actions that led to Mousa's death were "shameful and inexcusable."

"Lessons have been learned and much has been done since 2003 but we look forward to the inquiry's report and will look carefully at any recommendations they make," said a ministry spokesman in a statement.

Britain contributed the second largest contingent of troops to the US-led invasion of Iraq that toppled Saddam Hussein, deploying some 46,000 troops to the country in March and April 2003 at the height of combat operations.

© 2011 AFP

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