MoD admits troops assaulted nine Iraqi civilians at food depot


The MoD say the assaults happened in May 2003

The Ministry of Defence has admitted nine Iraqi men suffered unlawful assaults while being detained by British troops, it has been revealed.

The men are bringing a claim for civil damages against the MoD for physical and sexual abuse they say they suffered at Camp Bread Basket, a food distribution depot near Basra, in May 2003.

Three soldiers from the 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers were court martialled, jailed and expelled from the Army in February 2005 for mistreating suspected looters in the incident, which led to the head of the Army apologising to the people of Iraq.

Leigh Day & Co, the firm of solicitors acting for the men, said the MoD made the admission in papers filed in connection with the damages action yesterday, but said the ministry had said it was unable to admit or dispute the details of the treatment.

An MoD spokesman said it had admitted liability under Iraqi law but not British law.

Sapna Malik, from Leigh Day & Co, said: ‘The maltreatment of the men was hideous, humiliating and degrading and the legacy lingers with them to this day.

‘We hope the admission marks the MoD’s willingness to resolve the claims fairly so that the men can try to finally move forward with their lives.’

The incident came to light after the emergence of so-called ‘trophy’ photographs of abuse, including images of sexual humiliation.

The pictures were taken by Fusilier Gary Bartlam, who took them to be developed at a shop in his hometown of Tamworth, Staffordshire, where an assistant called in police.

In one photograph Lance Corporal Mark Cooley was shown grinning, driving a forklift truck with a bound Iraqi prisoner suspended from the prongs, the prisoner’s face grimacing with fear.

Another showed Cooley, a father of one from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, kneeling and pretending to punch a prostrate prisoner.

Corporal Daniel Kenyon, also from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, appeared in the background of one picture which showed another Iraqi being assaulted.

Lance Corporal Darren Larkin, from Oldham, Greater Manchester, was seen in another picture, dressed in his boxer shorts and flip-flops, standing on top of a prone detainee who was tied in a cargo net.

Kenyon and Cooley were found guilty of taking part in the mistreatment of captured looters, while Larkin pleaded guilty to assaulting an Iraqi prisoner.

The soldiers claimed abuse was widespread at the camp and stemmed from an illegal order given by a commanding officer to capture and punish looters, codenamed Operation Ali Baba.

Ms Malik said her clients claim to have been in the camp legally, and say they were severely beaten with fists and poles, and forced to carry heavy crates on their heads.

Some also claim to have been forced to simulate sex acts, she said.

Ms Malik said the damages agreed by the MoD in July for the family of Baha Mousa, the hotel receptionist who died in 2003 while being detained by British soldiers, made her optimistic that the case could be resolved through mediation.

Government lawyers agreed in July to pay almost £3m in compensation to the father of Mr Mousa and to nine others who were abused in a detention centre in Basra in September 2003.

‘I’m hopeful we will be able to resolve the claims out of court in the next three to four months, but if not, we feel we have got a strong case and we will gladly take it to trial,’ she said.

A spokesman for the MoD said it would be inappropriate to comment on the case in detail, as it was the subject of ongoing litigation.

‘The MoD settles compensation claims when there is a legal liability to do so,’ he said.

‘Such liability does not exist during the combat phase of an operation, but compensation is paid where it is judged that UK Armed Forces have been negligent in causing injury or damage post cessation of hostilities.’

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