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United Kingdom: Ministry of Defence Investigations in Iraq Not Independent Enough to Meet Human Rights Requirements

(Jan. 11, 2012) The Court of Appeal in England and Wales recently issued a judgment that the current mode of investigating allegations of abuse in Iraq by British forces in 2003-2004 is not sufficiently independent. The Iraq Historic Allegations Team established by the Secretary of State is the investigative body in question. (R (on the application of Mousa) v. Secretary of State for Defense [2011] EWCA Civ 1334.)

The case was the result of an appeal against a decision of the High Court, which had ruled that the Secretary of State had lawfully refused to order a public inquiry to investigate the allegations of abuse of Iraqi detainees. The Court of Appeal ruled that the Team lacked independence, as its members included Military Provost staff members who had been involved in issues concerning the detainees at the time of their detention, and the other members would be open to criticism if a case of systematic abuse were established. (Id.)

As a result of the judgment, the Secretary of State for Defence must now reconsider how to satisfy his duty to conduct an effective investigation, as required by the European Convention on Human Rights 1950, article 3. (European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, opened for signature Nov. 4, 1950, 213 UNTS 222, Council of Europe website.)