A LONG-AWAITED public inquiry into claims that British soldiers mistreated and murdered Iraqi detainees during the Iraq War was shown graphic photographs of alleged victims of torture as it opened today.
• The Al-Sweady Inquiry is examining claims that UK soldiers murdered and tortured Iraqis after the ‘Battle of Danny Boy’
• It will look at allegations that Iraqis were unlawfully killed at Camp Abu Naji (CAN)
• It will also examine allegations that Iraqi detainees were tortured and ill-treated at CAN
The Al-Sweady Inquiry is examining claims that UK soldiers murdered and tortured Iraqis after the ‘Battle of Danny Boy’ in Maysan Province, southern Iraq, in May 2004.
It will look at allegations that Iraqis were unlawfully killed at Camp Abu Naji (CAN) on May 14 and 15 2004 and that five Iraqi detainees were tortured and ill-treated at CAN, and again between May 14 and September 23 2004, at a detention facility at Shaibah Logistics Base.
In an opening statement, counsel to the inquiry Jonathan Acton Davis QC said it aims to identify the circumstances of the deaths of 28 Iraqi men.
For three, death certificates documented signs of torture, several had missing eyes and one man’s penis was missing.
Mr Acton Davis said the inquiry was ordered after Hussein Fadel Abass, Atiyah Sayid Abdelreza, Hussein Jabbari Ali, Mahdi Jassim Abdullah and Ahmad Jabbar Ahmood claimed violations of their Human Rights at the High Court.
“The claim related to events which began on May 14 2004, when Iraqi insurgents ambushed vehicles belonging to the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders near to a permanent vehicle checkpoint known as Danny Boy which was some 5km north-east of Majar Al Kabir on route six in Iraq,” he said.
“A fierce battle ensued which involved not only the Argylls but also soldiers from the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment.
“It resulted in many Iraqis being killed and in two British soldiers being wounded.”
He said enemy dead would normally have been left on the battlefield, but British soldiers were apparently given an order to identify the dead to try to find a man thought to be involved in the murder of six British soldiers in 2003.
As part of that order, the bodies of 20 Iraqis were taken back to CAN, and nine were detained, he said.
Mr Acton Davis said it was claimed that Hamid Al-Sweady - whom the inquiry was named after - was killed at CAN either on May 14 2004 after he had been detained, or on May 15 before his body and that of 19 other Iraqis were handed back to local Iraqi authorities.
He said there was a “stark dispute” between Iraqi and military evidence.
The MoD has vigorously denied the allegations, saying any deaths happened on the battlefield.
Mr Acton Davis said although there was no dispute that a number of dead Iraqis were handed back to the local population by the British military near the gates of CAN on May 15 2004, there was a “lack of agreement” even about the number and identities of the bodies.
“It was therefore essential as a first step to try to identify each person who was killed on May 15 and thereafter to establish which bodies were at CAN during that 24-hour period.”
Inquiry staff investigated the computer system used by the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), known as the Forensic Data Handling Capability (FDHC), he said, but are still analysing one section which includes millions of individual emails.
The inquiry spoke to various journalists who had written about the Battle of Danny Boy and its aftermath.
One claimed to have seen apparently mutilated bodies, while other journalists had interviewed people allegedly connected to incident.
Video footage had also been obtained of dead Iraqis arriving at hospital after being handed over by British forces, and there were later obtained interviews with seven of nine men detained at CAN.
Mr Acton Davis said there were five main groups of Iraqi witnesses - nine detainees; medical and ambulance personnel; family members of the dead; miscellaneous witnesses and local employed civilians working with the army.
Attorney General Dominic Grieve has agreed to grant witnesses to the inquiry immunity from prosecution based on their own evidence, the inquiry also heard.