Socialist Worker

Court martial: there is ‘no case to answer’ over Baha Musa’s death

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2039

Hotel receptionist Baha Musa was arrested by British soldiers, along with eight other Iraqis in September 2003.

He was hooded, deprived of sleep and beaten over a 36-hour period. He died from some or all of the 93 injuries he sustained while in custody.

Last week in a court martial Justice McKinnon ruled that five men, members of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment, had no case to answer.

One soldier, Corporal Payne, had previously pleaded guilty to a third charge of inhumane treatment. He will be sentenced next month.

Two other defendants, both of the Intelligence Corps, who were involved in the detention of Iraqi civilians, will continue to face trial.

The judge’s reasons for deciding to acquit the defendants cannot be made public.

The court had heard that the abused Iraqi prisoners could not identify who was assaulting them because they were hooded.

Earlier in the hearing, Major Anthony Royce, called as a witness by the judge, said he had been instructed by those higher up the chain of command in Basra to use “conditioning techniques”, including hooding and forcing prisoners into stress positions.

A series of trials over abuse in Iraq, including killing of detainees, have led to acquittals:

  • The court martial of seven paratroopers accused of murdering an Iraqi teenager collapsed in November 2005.
  • Three soldiers were cleared of killing an asthmatic Iraqi teenager in Basra after a court martial last June.
  • Kevin Williams of the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment was accused of shooting Hassan Abbad Sayed at a checkpoint in August 2003. His commanding officer decided he should not face a court martial.
  • The case against a group of soldiers filmed beating Iraqis during a riot was dropped last month. Army investigators said they had found evidence to charge two soldiers but were constrained by a six-month time limit.

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