British soldiers 'kicked Iraqi prisoner to death'

By Robert Fisk in Basra

04 January 2004

Eight young Iraqis arrested in Basra were kicked and assaulted by British soldiers, one of them so badly that he died in British custody, according to military and medical records seen by The Independent on Sunday.

Amnesty International has urged its members to protest directly to Tony Blair about the death of Baha Mousa, the son of an Iraqi police colonel, and to demand an impartial and independent investigation into the apparent torture of the Basra prisoners. A major at 33 Field Hospital outside the southern Iraqi city said that one of the survivors suffered "acute renal failure" after "he was assaulted ... and sustained severe bruising to his upper abdomen, right side of chest, left forearms and left upper inner thigh".

British military authorities have offered Mr Mousa's relatives $8,000 (£4,500) in compensation, providing they are not held responsible for his death, but the young hotel receptionist's family plans to take the Ministry of Defence to court. His body was returned to them, covered in bruises and with his nose broken, after he and seven colleagues were arrested by British forces in Basra last September and held in military custody for three days.

One of the other workers has given a frightening account of their ordeal. Baha Mousa, he says, was tied and hooded and then repeatedly kicked and assaulted by British troops, begging all the while to have the hood removed because he could no longer breathe.

A death certificate provided by the British Army states that Baha Mousa had died of "asphyxia". A restricted medical document from a British hospital says a surviving prisoner, Kifah Taha, suffered his injuries "due to a severe beating". The IoS has copies of both documents.

After Mr Mousa's death, the Army's Special Investigation Branch opened an investigation. The Ministry of Defence told the IoS yesterday that there was "nothing in the records to suggest an inquiry was not still ongoing". But two soldiers who were arrested have since been released, and no charges have been made.

Mr Mousa's violent death left two children orphaned: his 22-year-old wife died of cancer shortly before his detention by British troops.