07:32, December 14 97 0 theguardian.com

2017-12-14 07:32:03
British troops breached Geneva conventions in Iraq, high court rules

British troops breached the Geneva conventions and subjected Iraqi civilians to cruel and inhuman treatment by hooding them and taking turns to run over their backs, the high court ruled on Thursday.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Defence breached the Geneva conventions as well as the Human Rights Act in the way in which it detained civilians following the 2003 invasion, the court concluded.

The damning judgment comes 10 days after the international criminal court declared that there was “a reasonable basis” to conclude that British troops committed war crimes against Iraqi detainees.

It was handed down following two high court civil trials in which four Iraqis claimed that they had been subjected to unlawful detention and abuse by British forces.

While there had been reasonable suspicion, which justified their initial capture, Mr Justice Leggat said that “none of the claimants was engaged in terrorist activity or posed any threat to the security of Iraq”.

The claims are being seen as test cases that may determine how a further 628 claims are dealt with by the MoD.

In addition, 331 claims have been settled out of court, with the MoD paying out £22m, as of the end of 2016.

They were brought amid sustained complaints at Westminster and in sections of the press that Iraqis who brought claims against British troops were essentially dishonest, and were being represented by “ambulance chasing” lawyers.

Sapna Malik, a partner at the London law firm Leigh Day, which represented the four men, said: “These trials took place against an onslaught of political, military and media slurs of Iraqis bringing spurious claims, and strident criticism of us, as lawyers, representing them.

“Yet we have just witnessed the rule of law in action. Our clients are grateful that the judge approached their claims without any preconception or presumption that allegations of misconduct by British soldiers are inherently unlikely to be true.

“Our clients’ evidence has been tested at length in court and the Ministry of Defence has been found wanting.”

Leggatt concluded that British troops had run over the backs of a number of detainees, and that the assaults “involved the gratuitous infliction of pain and humiliation for the amusement of those who perpetrated them”.

They constituted both inhuman and degrading treatment and “a clear breach of the Geneva conventions”.

The evidence of a former army officer, who said it would be impossible for such misconduct to be kept secret and not investigated by the army, appeared to “rest on nothing more solid than understandable professional pride and a measure of wishful thinking”.

There was no immediate comment from the Ministry of Defence.