Baha Mousa death exposes ‘systematic failure’ at Chicksands

INTERROGATION techniques taught at Chicksands military base have been condemned in a report into the death of a 26-year-old Iraqi civilian while in the custody of British soldiers.

The findings of an inquiry into the death of Baha Mousa, chaired by retired Court of Appeal judge the Right Honourable Sir William Gage, were published yesterday (Thursday).

Mr Mousa, a hotel receptionist in Basra, was arrested on September 14, 2003, following a weapons find by British Forces.

He died the following day, leaving his two young children orphaned. His wife had died in February that year.

A post mortem found Mr Mousa had sustained 93 external injuries.

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The two tactical questioners who interrogated Mr Mousa - Staff Sergeant Davies and Territorial Army reservist Smulski - had both been trained in interrogation at the Defence Intelligence and Security Centre at Chicksands military base.

Mr Mousa spent the majority of his time in captivity hooded with a hessian sandbag over his head, the report said.

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He was forced to adopt stress positions – a term used to describe any posture which someone is forced to maintain which becomes painful, extremely uncomfortable or exhausting over time.

Both techniques had been banned as aids to interrogation more than 30 years earlier.

Sir Gage concluded that Mr Mousa was “subjected to violent and cowardly abuse and assaults by British servicemen” and referred to the events as “grave and shameful”.

An investigation into Chicksands found that students were taught to walk a blindfolded prisoner around for a short period immediately after arrival for interrogation, so as to increase the pressure. This “should never have been taught,” Sir Gage ruled.

“There were other aspects of course-taught methods which in my view were unacceptable,” he continued.

For example, he said, the teaching of harsh personal and abusive insults, including racist and homophobic language, which “ran the risk of being a form of intimidation to coerce answers”.

The teaching was also inconsistent on points such as whether or not furniture could be thrown, Sir Gage said.

He said the main fault for inappropriate training lay principally in a “systematic failure” over the course of many years. This failure included not recognising the proper significance of aspects of the Geneva Conventions, such as the prohibition on insults.

Sir Gage made 73 recommendations as a result of the inquiry, including that prisoners must undergo a medical examination within four hours of capture.

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