16 September 2008
The Ministry of Defence (“MoD”) has admitted that unlawful assaults and batteries were sustained by nine Iraqi men claiming damages following their abuse by members of the British Army’s Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (“RRF”) in May 2003.
However, the MoD has stated that it is unable to admit or dispute the precise details of treatment complained of by the men, pending its on-going investigations into the incident. The MoD has also denied that the Human Rights Act or European Convention on Human Rights extended to the humanitarian aid distribution centre where the abuses occurred.
The now notorious incident took place at a humanitarian aid distribution centre situated near Basra in southern Iraq, known locally as ‘Camp Breadbasket.’ At the time of the incident the Camp was being guarded by the First Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.
In May 2003, British soldiers took part in an operation nicknamed ‘Operation Ali Baba’ which was apparently aimed at stopping looting from the Camp, which was a common occurrence. In the early hours of the 15 May, British soldiers rounded up local Iraqis from in and around the Camp.
Nine Iraqi men who have commenced claims against the MoD in the English High Court (one on behalf of his deceased brother) contend that they were violently assaulted for several hours at the Camp after being rounded up in the sweep. As well as being beaten, they state that they were made to carry out various menial and degrading tasks by the soldiers, such as: being ordered to carry heavy loads, such as cement blocks or crates of powdered milk, on their heads and run around the camp; carry an iron cage with other Iraqis inside; pick up rubbish and get drenched with dirty water. At least one of the men was placed on the prongs of a forklift truck, which were raised and lowered until he fell to the ground.
As evidenced by the shocking photographs which were subsequently circulated, some of the men who were captured were forced to strip naked and participate in sexually humiliating/abusive acts.
In 2005, four soldiers were subjected to military court martial, receiving custodial sentences and dismissal from the army with disgrace.
Sapna Malik, partner at Leigh Day & Co solicitors who represent the men in their claims against the MoD comments:
“It is good that the MoD has admitted that the treatment received by each of the Claimants was unlawful, although its refusal to accept that Camp Breadbasket falls within the ambit of the Human Rights Act is frustrating. The maltreatment of the men was hideous, humiliating and degrading and the legacy lingers with them to this day. We hope that today’s admission marks the MoD’s willingness to resolve the claims fairly so that the men can try to finally move forward with their lives.“
For more information contact Sapna Malik
on + 44 20 7650 1222 or Shubhaa Srinivasan
on + 44 20 7650 1343.
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