Baha Mousa death ''shameful'', says Fox
09 September 2011
A report into the circumstances surrounding the death of Iraqi hotel receptionist Baha Mousa in British custody in 2003 has been described as "a painful and difficult read" by Defence Secretary Liam Fox.
Addressing parliament after Sir William Gage published the results of a £13m inquiry into Mousa's death, Fox said that "serious failings in command and discipline" had led to the "deplorable, shocking and shameful" circumstances surrounding Mousa's death.
Despite the report's criticisms, Fox praised the "fine ethical values found day in and day out in our armed forces".
A lack of discipline in 1st Battalion the Queen's Lancashire Regiment at the time was matched by a "systemic failure" to ensure soldiers were aware of the rules on handling detainees, the Defence Secretary said.
Only one man, Corporal Donald Payne, has ever been convicted in relation to the incident, and the judge at his court martial said that the lack of charges for others was due to a "more or less obvious closing of ranks".
Fox said that action may still be taken against personnel named in the report who had not faced any charges, and he criticised "the refusal of some involved to tell the whole truth".
"Their behaviour is a matter for their own consciences but others must take responsibility for the wider failures and deficiencies," he said. "…The evidence from the inquiry will now be reviewed to see whether more can be done to bring those responsible to justice."
Fox also said that the Iraq Historic Allegations Team, which is investigating allegations made against British troops regarding other Iraqi detainees, had revealed "evidence of some concern".
The Defence Secretary said he had only one "reservation" about the inquiry's 73 recommendations, which included calls for a ban on some verbal techniques used to interrogate detainees. In future, only "defined people in defined circumstances" would be allowed to use those techniques, he said.
"Baha Mousa was not a casualty of war. His death occurred as a detainee in British custody – it was avoidable and preventable and there can be no excuses," said Fox. "There is no place in our armed forces for the mistreatment of detainees and there is no place for a perverted sense of loyalty that turns a blind eye to wrongdoing or erects a wall of silence to cover it up."