UK High Court allows new inquiry into alleged Iraqi torture to go ahead

(UK Human Rights Blog) On 16 July the UK High Court, in the case Al Zaki Mousa and others v Secretary of State for Defence and Legal Services Commission, has given permission to around 100 Iraqi applicants to bring proceedings to compel the Secretary of State to hold a single public inquiry to investigate breaches of Article 3 in relation to each of the claimants with respect to their treatment whilst in detention in Iraq.

The claimant was representative of a group of Iraqis numbering about 100 who either have brought, or wish to bring, judicial review proceedings against the Secretary of State for Defence alleging that they were ill-treated in detention in Iraq at various times between 2003 and 2008 by members of the British Armed forces in breach of Article 3.

In this short hearing the court gave an outline of its reasons why it had decided to grant permission for such proceedings to go ahead, despite the fact that there are already two public inquiries taking place into allegations of ill-treatment by British soldiers in Iraq (the Baha Mousa inquiry and the Al Sweady inquiry).

The alternative proposed by the Secretary of State was an investigation by the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) and the Iraq Historic Allegations Panel (IHAP). The Court accepted the claimants’ arguments that the IHAT/IHAP arrangements are not hierarchically or institutionally independent.

As for the Secretary of State’s contention that any investigation should await further fact-finding, the court observed that postponement of a public investigation would not achieve sufficient promptness where some allegations are already quite old, and where there is a substantial risk that IHAT’s investigation will not be effective.

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