Hilary Meredith says it is “inconceivable” British troops mistreated hundreds of Iraqi prisoners

Hundreds of fresh allegations of British Army wrongdoing in Iraq have been lodged with the High Court says The Sun.

Leigh Day, the law firm, has submitted 250 cases relating to alleged mistreatment by UK service personnel to the High Court. It is said to be considering the submission of another 200 cases, depending on information it receives from the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Commenting on the news, Hilary Meredith, Chair of Hilary Meredith Solicitors and Visiting Professor of Law and Veterans’ Affairs at the University of Chester, said:

“It is inconceivable that the British military would mistreat Iraqi prisoners on this scale.

“Having represented the British military for over 30 years, through various conflicts and wars, I am absolutely convinced that the overwhelming majority of military personnel serve their country with dignity and pride.”

Continued Hilary:

“Mistakes were made in Iraq.
“The terrible circumstances of the Baha Mousa case, when an Iraqi man died while in British Army custody in Basra in September 2003, are well known.

“However, what has been entirely overlooked is the MoD’s failure to properly prepare, train and instruct our armed forces in relation to capturing and detaining prisoners prior to deployment to Iraq.

“What had shockingly been forgotten and written out of all MoD training manuals was the Parliamentary Directive of 1972 given by then Prime Minister Edward Heath, banning certain methods of interrogation when capturing and detaining prisoners.   It was made clear in this statement that this directive would cover all future circumstances.

“The five banned techniques are wall standing, hooding, subjection to noise, sleep deprivation and deprivation of food and drink.  One also has to understand the total lack of infrastructure and law and order in Iraq at the time. There were no judges, police force or prisons in which to place detainees, so the British military were left capturing a large number of suspects with nowhere to put them and no training on how to properly detain them.”

Continued Hilary:

“What occurred in the Baha Mousa case was that the incoming regiment witnessed the outgoing regiment hooding prisoners outside as they moved them from one building to another, presumably so they couldn’t orientate themselves in an attempt to escape.   Seeing this, and without any further guidance from the MoD, it was presumed that the hooding of prisoners was common practice and acceptable. This doesn’t excuse the terrible events that followed but it sets the scene.

“The Aitken Report into cases of abuse and unlawful killing in Iraq in 2003 and 2004, published in 2008, contained one paragraph on the lack of training and preparation for the detention of prisoners in Iraq and in particular why the five banned techniques had been written out of every MoD training manual and directive.

“If there has been any mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners, the MoD should bare corporate responsibility for the lack of training our troops received.   The buck should stop with the MoD not the individual soldier.”