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Calls for prosecution of British soldiers in civil court

The Crown Prosecution Service is looking into findings of a report which found British soldiers guilty of a “very serious breach of discipline”, which caused the death of Basra hotel employee Baha Mousa.

26 year old Mousa was arrested by members of the 1st Battalion The Queen’s Lancashire regiment (QLR), along with 9 other Iraqis.

After being detained Mousa was subjected to a prolonged period of abuse, while being deprived of sleep and food. A post-mortem found 93 injuries on his body and evidence of asphyxiation. He died 36 hours after being detained.

Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the actions of the British soldiers and hinted at prosecution of individuals involved if further evidence emerges from the inquiry.

"The British Army, as it does, should uphold the highest standards. If there is further evidence that comes out of this inquiry that requires action to be taken, it should be taken."

During a court martial relating to the case in 2007 Cpl Donald Payne became the first British soldier convicted of a war crime. He was imprisoned for 1 year and dismissed from the army.

Six members of the QLR were cleared of any wrong doing during the court martial, but the latest report criticises commanding officer Col Mendonca, who was one of the accused.

It was found that Col Mendonca was unaware of the abuse but the chairman of the inquiry Sir William Gage said

"As commanding officer, he ought to have known what was going on in that building long before Baha Mousa died."

The report also found that two officers, Lt Craig Rodgers and Maj Michael Peebles, were aware of the abuse committed by soldiers and did not intervene or report the incidents.

“The events described in the report represent a very serious and regrettable incident. Such an incident should not have happened and should never happen again.’’ Sir William added.

Campaigners have called for the soldiers to be tried in a civilian court.

Sapna Malik, from law firm Leigh Day, said: “In light of the cogent and serious findings by Sir William Gage, we now expect that the military and civilian prosecuting authorities of this country will act to ensure that justice is done.”

Defence Secretary Liam Fox said in a statement to the Commons that the army had been guilty of systematic failures.

"What happened to Baha Mousa and his fellow detainees in September 2003 was deplorable, shocking and shameful...It was avoidable and preventable, and there can be no excuses. There is no place in our armed forces for the mistreatment of detainees. And there is no place for a perverted sense of loyalty that turns a blind eye to wrongdoing or erects a wall of silence to cover it up."

Sir William made a total of 73 recommendations to improve the way detained individuals are handled in the 1,366 page report.

The Baha Mousa Public Inquiry (Full Report)