UK inquiry into systematic abuse allegations in Iraq must be seen to be independent

Any investigation into the 128 cases of alleged abuse of civilians by British soldiers in Iraq must not only be independent but must be seen to be independent, as any perceived lack of independence is likely to undermine the work and
conclusions of the investigating body.

REDRESS has intervened in the case of Ali Zaki Mousa and Others v Secretary State for Defence, which begins in the Court of Appeal today, drawing attention to international standards that require the effective investigation of cases where systemic violations of fundamental human rights, including the prohibition against torture, have allegedly occurred. REDRESS instructed Aswini Weeraratne of Doughty Street Chambers to help draft its submission.

The appeal, brought by Public Interest Lawyers on behalf of the 128 claimants, is challenging the UK Government’s decision to set up and continue with the Iraq Historical Allegations Team (IHAT) to investigate the allegations, instead of establishing a full public inquiry.

As a human rights organisation seeking full rights to remedies and reparation for torture survivors, REDRESS is particularly concerned with the consequences for survivors of an ineffective investigation.

Carla Ferstman, Director of REDRESS, said:  “The evidence of the patterns of abuse referred to by the Appellants is capable of supporting a reasonable argument that there were systemic causes. This suggests the need for an independent inquiry led by a judge, taking into account the need for a process that is properly proportionate to the gravity of the allegations.”

In its written intervention REDRESS highlights the importance of victims and witnesses having confidence in the investigative process if it is to be effective. Effectiveness may be jeopardised where such confidence has been lost “through lack of promptness, impartiality or any other reasons, such as questioning that is not in conformity with international standards, so that they decline to participate.”

Only a prompt, impartial and effective investigation can lead to establishing the full facts. Without adequate public verification of what happened the right of alleged victims to an effective remedy will not be met and efforts to put in place measures to prevent any future violations are likely to be limited.

Note to editors:

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. We cooperate 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, please contact Eva Sanchis ([email protected]) at +44 (0) 20 7793 1777.

Photo by Sgt.Tim Ortez/CC BY 2.0.