Appeal court says inquiry process into alleged widespread army abuses in Iraq not independent enough

The Iraq Historical Allegations Team (IHAT) which the UK Government set up last year to investigate allegations that more than 120 Iraqi civilians were abused by British soldiers lacks the requisite independence, the Court of Appeal said today, giving judgment in the case of Ali Zaki Mousa and Others v The Secretary of State for Defence.

REDRESS intervened in the appeal brought by Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), drawing attention to international standards that require the effective investigation of cases where systematic violations of fundamental human rights, including the prohibition against torture, have allegedly occurred. In its written intervention REDRESS highlighted the importance of victims and witnesses having confidence in the investigative process if it is to be effective.

PIL called for a public inquiry, and the Government will now have to decide how to comply with the need for an inquiry which is independent, effective and reasonably prompt.

“We welcome today’s decision which confirmed that one of the essential functions of an independent inquiry is to ensure public confidence in the process,” said Carla Ferstman, director of REDRESS. “The Court said that the inquiry process did not go far enough, but it didn’t specify what further steps were required in the more than 120 cases, to comply with the obligation to investigate torture.

We now call on the Government to set up a process which is sufficiently comprehensive and impartial to instill public confidence and to finally get to the bottom of the many allegations of abuse.”

The allegations cover the period 2003 to 2008, and include allegations of hooding and other forms of sensory deprivation, food, water and sleep deprivation, the use of stress techniques, sexual and religious humiliation, assault and mock executions. The  Court of Appeal placed importance on what it called “the reality of the situation on the ground in Iraq” and said “the problem is that the Provost Branch members of IHAT are participants in investigating allegations which, if true, occurred at a time when the Provost Branch members were plainly involved in matters surrounding the detention and internment of suspected persons in Iraq.”

For further information: Contact Kevin Laue, REDRESS’s legal advisor, at [email protected] or on 0207793 1777.

REDRESS’s full intervention is available on:


REDRESS was founded by a British torture survivor in 1992. Since then, it has consistently fought for the rights of torture survivors and their families in the UK and abroad. It takes legal challenges on behalf of survivors, works to ensure that torturers are punished and that survivors and their families obtain remedies for their suffering. REDRESS has intervened in a range of leading torture cases.