UK judge rules in trial of soldiers charged with abusing Iraqi detainees

[JURIST] A British judge issued a ruling Tuesday in the case of seven British soldiers facing court-martial [MOD press release; JURIST report] for charges relating to the abuse of Iraqi detainees. Justice Stuart McKinnon ordered the ruling to remain private, however, until it is read to a military board of officers acting as a jury. Since the courts-martial against the soldiers are ongoing, it is believed parts of McKinnon's ruling could be prejudicial to some of the defendants. One of the seven soldiers, Corporal David Payne, pleaded guilty in September 2006 to a charge of inhumane treatment [JURIST report], becoming the first British soldier to admit committing a war crime in Iraq. Two other soldiers are also charged with inhumane treatment; both pleaded not guilty under the International Criminal Court Act 2001 (ICCA) [text]. The remaining soldiers face prosecution for duty contrary to the British Army Act 1955 [text], including negligent performance of duty and assault.

In September 2006, a prosecutor in the case told a British court-martial that senior UK military officers should be held responsible for the abuse of Iraqi detainees [JURIST report] in UK custody because they failed to develop adequate checking procedures on junior personnel. A British Army major testified in November 2006 that a military legal adviser approved techniques for preparing Iraqi detainees [JURIST report] for interrogation with techniques that allegedly violated the Geneva Conventions [ICRC materials]. The charges stem from a 2003 raid on a hotel in Basra in which British military confiscated weapons and explosives contraband, and detained several Iraqi civilians, including hotel receptionist Baha Mousa [BBC report; JURIST report], who died while in custody. The soldiers allegedly took the Iraqis to a detention facility where they were held for 36 hours and subjected to physical abuse, causing Mousa's death, according to prosecutors. AP has more.

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