House of Lords rule human rights law applies to Musa case


LONDON (Reuters) - The House of Lords ruled on Wednesday that European human rights law did apply to British troops serving in Iraq in the case of an Iraqi man who died in their custody four years ago.

Lawyers said the decision means that an independent inquiry, long resisted by the government, should now be opened into the death of Baha Musa, an Iraqi hotel receptionist who died in September 2003 after being detained, hooded and beaten by British troops.

It also means, they added, that the government may have to order sweeping changes to the way British troops operate and conduct themselves in Iraq, Afghanistan and anywhere else on deployment.

The Lords' ruling, by a majority of four to one, followed an appeal by the Ministry of Defence. The ministry was not immediately available to comment on the ruling.

"Today we've been successful in the House of Lords and that means there must now be a full, public and independent inquiry into what went wrong," said Phil Shiner, a lawyer representing Baha Musa and other applicants.

"It seems clear from the public record that serious errors of judgment have been made at senior levels both within the military and the government."

The government had maintained that soldiers serving in Iraq should not necessarily be subject to Britain's Human Rights Act or the European Convention on Human Rights because they were operating in conflict in a foreign country.

The Lords' ruling made clear, at least in the case of Baha Musa, that the legislation did apply to soldiers serving on British bases in Iraq or holding detainees in their custody.

Human rights campaigners were elated by the decision, which they said held the government to account and meant that any British detention facility anywhere in the world was now covered.

"Our law Lords have today ensured that there can never be a British Guantanamo anywhere in the world ... there can be no British detention facility where the law does not apply," said Shami Chakrabarti of rights group Liberty.

"Individual soldiers cannot be scapegoated, cannot be left any more to carry the can for the failures of our government and the military high command."

While the ruling set a landmark in the case of Musa, a separate set of cases also involving deaths in Iraq and also before the House of Lords on Wednesday, was rejected. Shiner, who also brought those cases, said he would now appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

As well as the potential for sweeping changes to the conduct of British troops abroad, Wednesday's decision means Musa's family, who have long campaigned for a full inquiry into their son's death, seem certain to get their wish, although there is no indication of when any inquiry will be opened.

Musa, who was 26 when he died, was detained with several other Iraqis when British troops raided a hotel in the southern city of Basra. Those held were kept blindfolded, put in stress positions and beaten during 36 hours of detention.

Musa died after suffering 93 injuries, including broken ribs and a broken nose. A personal injury lawyer is involved in bringing a separate case to the High Court seeking to sue the Ministry of Defence for punitive damages for his injuries
This will open the door to ever more politically motivated prosecutions of british service personnel in places like Iraq. Therefore it will be extremely difficult to define genuine cases from those that have no foundation at all other than to cause the government difficulty or as an easy way to get money.
This will hopefully point the finger of blame directly where it belongs - at the government. Goldsmith gave an opinion that HRA did not apply to detainees, presumably to keep in step with the US in terms of prisoner "handling". He has now been over-ruled.
Bad legal advice over Iraq, BAe, and now the human rights of those detained by the UK Armed Forces. If I was a squaddie who had gone through a court-martial, I would be distinctly unhappy at the advice given by the government's chief law officer. As a member of the public, I am not happy at the Iraq advice or the dropping of the BAe case, or the failure of the attorney general to recuse himself from any cash-for-honours prosecution.

Could Goldsmith be impeached over his clear dereliction of duty? Or - failing that - punished by the Bar Standards Board? :twisted:

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no doubt the anti-war campainers will be jumping up and down with unbridled glee. I am in no way condoning prisoner abuse its wrong and if proved the guilty should be brought to book.

Phil Shiner et al. What are you hoping to achieve from this particular compensation claim? Methinks that you & your firm stand to make a far more considerable amount of money than the (ahem) aggrieved.

You parasites!!! Perhaps you're pi$$ed off that you missed the Bloody Sunday gravy train that you could have all retired on.

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