Friday 20 July 2012
Iraqi civilians who allege extra-judicial killings and torture by British forces have won the right to challenge the government's refusal to hold a public inquiry into the claims.
Mr Justice Silber has granted permission for 169 Iraqi civilians to seek a second judicial review of the decision of the Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond, to investigate their allegations through the "Iraq Historic Allegations Team" (IHAT).
Last November the claimants' representative Public Interest lawyers successfully argued at the Court of Appeal that IHAT was not sufficiently independent, comprising as it does a substantial number of Royal Military Police (RMP). The RMP has itself been intimately involved in detention operations in Iraq.
The appeal court judges ruled that the IHAT inquiries were at best inadequate and at worst "substantially compromised."
They stopped short of ordering a fresh investigation but asked Mr Hammond to look again at how the hundreds of allegations of torture and unlawful killing are investigated.
The allegations concern a number of unlawful killings and a vast number of allegations of abuse surrounding the Joint Forward Interrogation Team (JFIT) which operated throughout British operations in Iraq and interrogated hundreds of civilians.
The claimants allege that they were held in solitary confinement cells and subjected to interrogation techniques including sleep deprivation, food and water deprivation, hooding, forced nudity and sexual humiliation.
In March 2012 the Secretary of State announced that the RMP element in IHAT was to be replaced with the Royal Navy Police (RNP). However in a claim lodged on 25 May this year, the claimants argue that the RNP is also not independent as the Royal Navy had numerous officers participating in interrogation operations at the JFIT.
Public Interest Lawyers solicitor Phil Shiner said: "My clients are either relatives of Iraqis unlawfully killed or victims of gross acts of torture and ill-treatment.
"The MoD are making one last desperate effort to avoid accountability and my clients are pleased to have the chance of explaining once again to a court why there must now be an independent inquiry into all these cases."
The Ministry of Defence did not respond to the Star's request for comment.
The claim is to be heard over a three day period in December.