United Kingdom will compensate Iraqi victims of abuse

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

The United Kingdom Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on Thursday that it has agreed to pay compensation to victims of abuse in Iraq, who were in British custody at the time.

Iraqi civilian Baha Mousa, a 26-year-old hotel receptionist, died in September 2003 at a British base. Mousa and nine other Iraqis were arrested by a patrol of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment and suffered ill-treatment for over 36 hours.

At a British court-martial last year, it was learned that Mousa and the other men were tied and hooded and repeatedly kicked and assaulted by troops.

The British base was near Basra, Iraq

A witness in the case, Ahmad Taha Musa Al-Matairi, told the court that the seven soldiers involved "celebrated beating him and a group of other Iraqis like it was Christmas."

During the court-martial, Donald Payne plead guilty to a war crime and served a year in prison. The other six soldiers were acquitted.

Leigh Day & Co., the British law firm which represented the Iraqis, said that the MoD has agreed to pay £2.83 million pounds (3.56 million euros, US$5.6 million) in compensation after "intensive negotiations". The bulk of the settlement is expected to go to the family of Mousa.

A statement released by the MoD reads: "The settlement is with an admission of liability by the Ministry of Defence ... for substantive breaches of Article 2 (right to life) and 3 (prohibition of torture) of the European Convention on Human Rights."

According to the lawyers, Adjutant General Lieutenant General Freddie Viggers told the surviving victims and families: "The British Army apologized for the appalling treatment that you suffered at the hands of the British Army. The appalling behavior of British soldiers made us feel disgusted."

"I hope this independent inquiry will reassure the public that no stone has been left unturned. The Army and the Ministry of Defence will be giving the fullest co-operation to this inquiry," said UK Secretary of State for Defence Des Browne, at the onset of the inquiry in May 2008.