UK soldiers mistreated Iraqi detainees, says inquiry

Blindfolds and threats were used, says Al-Sweady inquiry, but allegations of murder and torture were 'deliberate lies'

UK troops in Iraq, 2003
(Image credit: Mirrorpix/ Getty)

British soldiers abused Iraqi detainees after a 2004 battle, a long-running inquiry has ruled, but allegations of murder and torture are "deliberate lies" which are "wholly without foundation".

What were the allegations?

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What was the truth?

The BBC reports that the Al-Sweady inquiry, named after one of the alleged victims, has found UK troops did mistreat detainees - but there was no evidence of murder or torture. In fact, the more serious allegations were withdrawn by lawyers acting for the claimants earlier this year.

How were prisoners mistreated?

The Guardian says British soldiers deprived detainees of food and sleep, blindfolded them - in breach of MoD rules - and threatened them, in breach of the Geneva convention. The inquiry reports that their conduct "fell below the high standards normally to be expected of the British army".

What started rumours of murder?

The inquiry blames "deliberate lies, reckless speculation and ingrained hostility". The MoD has always maintained that the 20 dead men were killed in battle. Unusually, however, the bodies were removed from the battle field for DNA testing to see if they could be linked to another attack on British forces, before being returned to relatives. This may have sparked speculation.

How long has the inquiry taken?

The allegations date to May 2004. The inquiry was set up in 2009 by then defence secretary Bob Ainsworth after the MoD was criticised for not conducting its own investigation. Chaired by the retired High Court judge who led the inquiry into the serial killer Harold Shipman, Sir Thayne Forbes, it has cost more than £24m to date.

Which troops were involved?

The soldiers involved were from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment. They were ambushed on 14 May 2004 by insurgents from the 'Mahdi Army', leading to a three-hour gun battle. The inquiry found that the soldiers acted with "exemplary courage, resolution and professionalism" during the battle.

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