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Baha Mousa was an Iraqi man who died while in British Army custody in Basra, Iraq in September 2003. The inquiry into his death found that Mousa's death was caused by "factors including lack of food and water, heat, exhaustion, fear, previous injuries and the hooding and stress positions used by British troops - and a final struggle with his guards". The inquiry heard that Mousa was hooded for almost 24 hours during his 36 hours of custody by the 1st Battalion of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment and that he suffered at least 93 injuries prior to his death. The report later details that Mousa was subject to several practices banned under both domestic law and the Geneva Conventions. Seven British soldiers were charged in connection with the case. Six were found not guilt, Cpl Donald Payne, pleaded guilty to inhumane treatment of a prisoner, was jailed for a year and dismissed from the Army.[1][2][3][4][5]

A final 1,400-page report said a "large number" of soldiers assaulted Mousa and that many others including officers must have known about the abuse. The report called his death an "appalling episode of serious gratuitous violence".[2] The inquiry condemned the Ministry of Defence for "corporate failure" and the regiment for a "lack of moral courage to report abuse".[6]


On 14 September 2003, Mousa, a 26-year-old hotel receptionist, was arrested along with six other men and taken to a British base. While in detention, Mousa and the other captives were hooded, severely beaten and assaulted by a number of British troops. Two days later Mousa was found dead.[7] A post-mortem examination found that Mousa suffered multiple injuries (at least 93), including fractured ribs and a broken nose, which were "in part" the cause of his death.[8]


Seven members of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment were tried on charges relating to the ill treatment of detainees, including those of war crimes under the International Criminal Court Act 2001. On 19 September 2006, Corporal Donald Payne pleaded guilty to a charge of inhumane treatment to persons, making him the first member of the British armed forces to plead guilty to a war crime.[9] He was subsequently jailed for one year and expelled from the army. The BBC reported that the six other soldiers were cleared of any wrongdoing,[10] and the Independent reported that the charges had been dropped, and that the presiding judge, Justice Ronald McKinnon, stated that "none of those soldiers has been charged with any offence, simply because there is no evidence against them as a result of a more or less obvious closing of ranks."[11]

Court rulings based on this case[12]

  1. Colonel Jorge Mendonca – cleared of negligently performing a duty
  2. Sgt Kelvin Stacey – cleared of common assault
  3. L/Cpl Wayne Crowcroft – cleared of inhumane treatment
  4. Pte Darren Fallon – cleared of inhumane treatment
  5. Cpl Donald Payne – admitted inhumane treatment, cleared of manslaughter and perverting the course of justice
  6. Warrant Officer Mark Davies – charged with negligently performing a duty
  7. Maj Michael Peebles – charged with negligently performing a duty[13]

Breach of human rights

On 27 March 2008, British Defence Secretary Des Browne admitted to "substantial breaches" of the European Convention of Human Rights over the death of Baha Mousa.[14] In July 2008 the Ministry of Defence agreed to pay £2.83 million in compensation to the family of Baha Mousa and nine other men, following an admission of "substantive breaches" of articles 2 and 3 (right to life and prohibition of torture) of the European Convention on Human Rights by the British Army.[15]

Public inquiry

A public inquiry, chaired by the retired Lord Justice of Appeal Sir William Gage, reported on 8 September 2011 after three years of investigation.[16] The report concluded British soldiers had subjected detainees to "serious, gratuitous violence".[17] Army training manuals failed to explain that the five interrogation techniques used had been banned by the British since 1972, and were also illegal under the Geneva Convention.[18] The inquiry again cleared Mendonca of knowledge of the attacks, but found that as commanding officer he should have known of them.[19] Although the Queen's Lancashire Regiment were cleared of an "entrenched culture of violence", the inquiry found the violence used in the Baha Mousa case was not a lone example, and identified 19 soldiers directly involved in the abuses, including those already unsuccessfully tried at previous Courts Martial.[17] Lawyers for families of the victims suggested there was sufficient evidence for fresh prosecutions in the civilian courts.

Other enquiries

In December 2012 Derek Keilloh, a former Medical Officer with the Queen's Lancashire Regiment who had treated Baha Mousa, was struck off the Medical Register by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service for dishonest conduct in subsequent enquiries into Baha Mousa's death.[20]

Further reading

In October 2012 A. T. Williams, professor of law at Warwick University and an adviser to the families' lawyers, published A Very British Killing: The Death of Baha Mousa, an account of the events and the subsequent inquiry.[21]


  1. Harding, Thomas (2011-09-08). "Baha Mousa inquiry: MoD's guilt for death of Army's Iraqi prisoner". Telegraph. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "BBC News - Q&A: Baha Mousa inquiry". BBC. 2011-09-08. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  3. "Baha Mousa hooding inhumane, says ex-army chief". BBC News. 2010-06-07. 
  4. "Baha Mousa public inquiry to examine allegations of torture in British custody". The Daily Telegraph. London. 2009-07-13. 
  5. Bowcott, Owen; Richard Norton-Taylor (2009-09-12). "Inquiry into Iraqi civilian's death to hear of plot to keep ministers in dark over interrogation methods". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2009-07-14. 
  6. "Testimonials for accused GP". Darlington and Stockton Times. 2012-07-13. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  7. Robert Fisk (15 December 2004). "Who Killed Baha Mousa?". The Independent. Retrieved 2006-09-23. 
  8. "British soldier admits war crime". BBC News. 19 September 2006. Retrieved 2006-09-23. 
  9. Devika Bhat; Jenny Booth (September 19, 2006). "British soldier is first to admit war crime". Times Online. London.,,3-2365393,00.html. Retrieved 2006-09-23. 
  10. "UK soldier jailed over Iraq abuse". BBC News. 30 April 2007. Retrieved 2007-04-30. 
  11. "A bloody epitaph to Blair's war". Independent on Sunday. London. 17 June 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-18. 
  12. "Timeline: Iraqi abuse trial". Retrieved 8 September 2011. 
  13. "UK soldiers cleared of Iraq abuse". BBC News. 2007-02-14. Retrieved 2010-04-26. 
  14. MoD admits human rights breaches over death of tortured Iraqi civilian, Belfast Telegraph, 28 March 2008
  15. "Iraqis to get £3m in MoD damages". BBC News. 2008-07-10. Retrieved 2008-07-10. 
  16. Baha Mousa inquiry makes 73 recommendations The Guardian, 8 September 2011
  17. 17.0 17.1 Baha Mousa inquiry: MoD's guilt for death of Army's Iraqi prisoner The Telegraph, 8 September 2011
  18. Deplorable, shocking, shameful: Fox's verdict on troops who beat Iraqi as he vows to end 'conspiracy of silence' Daily Mail, 8 September 2011
  19. British army suspends more soldiers following Baha Mousa inquiry The Journal, 9 September 2011
  20. "BBC News - Baha Mousa death: Army doctor Derek Keilloh struck off". BBC. 2012-12-21. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  21. "A Very British Killing: The Death of Baha Mousa: A. T. Williams: Books". Retrieved 2013-02-24. 

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