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United States: Media Gag Rejected

(Feb. 2, 2008) The British Ministry of Defence lost an attempt to prevent a newspaper, THE GUARDIAN, from reporting allegations of serious abuse of Iraqis by soldiers from the United Kingdom; in part the issue was the naming of the individual soldiers in the report. Lord Justice Moses of the high court ruled that the attempt to gag the media on the subject had no legal basis and went on to argue that the government's view amounted to arguing for "one rule for the Ministry of Defence and another for the ordinary citizen." He argued that no one has the right to anonymity when the subject of a police investigation. He added, "There is nothing to suggest that publication of the names would endanger the life of those being investigated."

The gag order sought by the Ministry was broad in nature and would have prevented the media from reporting any details of the alleged torture of 31 detained Iraqi civilians in May 2004; more than 20 of them reportedly died. Accusations in the case include torture, abuse, mutilation, and execution. Attorneys representing the families of the victims were given legal aid to pursue the cases in England; they want to see an independent investigation of the incident. A court hearing into this demand for a separate inquiry will be held in April 2008. (UK Court Rejects Bid To Gag Media From Reporting Alleged UK Army Abuse of Iraqis, THE GUARDIAN, Feb. 1, 2008, Open Source Center No. EUP 20080201031002.)