Soldiers may face charges over death

Former and serving British soldiers are awaiting a landmark report into the brutal death of an Iraqi civilian which could lead to them facing criminal charges.

Father-of-two Baha Mousa, 26, sustained 93 injuries while in the custody of 1st Battalion the Queen's Lancashire Regiment (1QLR) in Basra, southern Iraq, in 2003.

A public inquiry into his death and the abuse of nine other Iraqi men held with him is expected to publish its findings in the spring.

While the inquiry has no powers to accuse the soldiers of crimes, prosecutors could use its report as the basis for bringing charges.

Seven 1QLR soldiers, including former commanding officer Colonel Jorge Mendonca, faced allegations relating to the mistreatment of the prisoners at a high-profile court martial in 2006-07.

The trial ended with them all cleared, apart from Corporal Donald Payne who became the first member of the British armed forces convicted of a war crime when he pleaded guilty to inhumanely treating civilians.

The surviving detainees and Mr Mousa's father are optimistic that further action could still be taken against those behind the abuse.

Their solicitor, Phil Shiner, of Birmingham-based Public Interest Lawyers, said: "My clients remain hopeful that in due course all those responsible for the killing of Baha Mousa and the torture of the survivors will be brought to book.

"It is particularly important that a message be sent out that those in positions of command will be brought to book in the future."

Mr Mousa was a receptionist at the Ibn Al Haitham hotel in Basra when it was raided by British forces early on September 14, 2003.

After finding weapons, fake ID cards and military clothing, Mr Mousa and several colleagues were arrested and taken to 1QLR's headquarters.

Here the soldiers subjected the Iraqis to humiliating abuse, including "conditioning" methods banned by the UK Government in 1972 such as hooding, sleep deprivation and making them stand in painful stress positions, the inquiry heard.

Mr Mousa was hooded for nearly 24 of the 36 hours he spent in British detention. He died at about 10pm on September 15.

The Ministry of Defence agreed in July 2008 to pay 2.83m in compensation to the families of Mr Mousa and nine other Iraqi men abused by British soldiers.