Mousa inquiry reveals “shameful events” and “corporate failure”

Today the public inquiry into the death of Baha Mousa, a Basra hotel worker who died of injuries he sustained in British custody in Iraq in 2003, issued its concluding report. The report confirms that British soldiers inflicted “violent and cowardly” assaults on Iraqi civilians, and that Mousa died after suffering “gratuitous violence”. It also speaks of “grave and shameful events”.

The chairman of the Inquiry, retired appeal court judge Sir William Gage, also condemned “corporate failure” at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) over the use of banned interrogation methods in Iraq. He found that there was widespread ignorance of what was permitted in handling prisoners of war and also criticised the absence of any proper MoD doctrine on interrogation. Even senior commanders were ignorant of a ban imposed in 1972 on the use of five techniques, including stress positions, sleep deprivation and hooding, which were used on Mousa and the other detainees.

The Inquiry, which was limited to the activities of the First Battalion, the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment in Basra, did not find evidence of systematic torture committed by the British Army and instead singles out a number of soldiers for severe criticism. These are Colonel Jorge Mendonca, Lieutenant Craig Rodgers, Major Michael Peebles and Corporal Payne – the only soldier who was ultimatedly convicted after having pled guilty to inhumanely treating civilian detainees in an earlier Court Martial. This Court Martial had acquitted Mendonca and Peebles of negligently performing a duty.

Rodgers was never charged with any offence. “For a long time the Government, the MoD and the Army have said that what happened in 2003 was a result of a few rotten apples. However, it is now clear that there were far wider problems and that Mousa’s death came as a result of a complete failure by the Government, the MoD, and the Army to prevent torture,” said Carla Ferstman, director of REDRESS.

REDRESS is convinced that it would be wrong to conclude that this was an isolated case of ill treatment by British Army personnel in Iraq. A further inquiry into alleged instances of torture and deaths at a British facility in 2004 has already been established (the Al-Sweady Inquiry) and there is currently litigation into the establishment of a single inquiry into the alleged abuse of 128 individuals by British armed forces in Iraq between 2003 and 2008 (Ali Zaki Mousa v Secretary of State for Defence).

The Mousa Report contains 73 clear recommendations to the MoD, which call for specific changes related to operating instructions for handling civilian detainees, the role of medical personnel, general and specific training for soldiers, including tactical questioning and interrogation training.

“Nothing can bring Baha Mousa back to life, but genuine steps need to be taken to try to prevent similar tragedies in the future,” said Ferstman.  REDRESS, a London-based human rights organisation that helps torture survivors obtain justice and reparation, has intervened at all stages of the Baha Mousa case since 2004.


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 cooperates with civil society groups around the world to eradicate the practice of torture once and for all and to ensure that survivors can move forward with their lives in dignity. It has intervened in a range of leading torture cases.

More information on our work is available on our website:
For further information: Contact Kevin Laue ([email protected]) or Eva Sanchis ([email protected])
at +44 (0) 20 7793 1777 and +44 07857110076.