Iraqi ‘caught red-handed with bomb’ wins £33,000 – be­cause our sol­diers kept him in cus­tody for too long

Daily Mail - - Front Page - By Larisa Brown De­fence and Se­cu­rity Ed­i­tor

TAX­PAY­ERS face mas­sive com­pen­sa­tion bills af­ter a sus­pected Iraqi in­sur­gent won a hu­man rights case against the Min­istry of De­fence yes­ter­day. The High Court ruled he was held too long by Bri­tish troops de­spite al­legedly be­ing found mak­ing a bomb.

Abd Al-Wa­heed was awarded £33,000 for a breach of the Euro­pean Con­ven­tion on Hu­man Rights. Three fel­low Iraqis will re­ceive tens of thou­sands of pounds in com­pen­sa­tion.

The pay­outs dwarf the sums given to wounded Bri­tish sol­diers – suf­fer­ing a frac­tured skull mer­its only £5,775 in com­pen­sa­tion. A blast in­jury is worth £6,000 and mul­ti­ple fa­cial frac­tures just £15,500.

Colonel Richard Kemp, who led UK forces in Afghanista­n, said: ‘Too of­ten the courts de­cide the hu­man rights of ter­ror­ist sus­pects are more im­por­tant than the hu­man rights of po­ten­tial vic­tims. It is in­san­ity.’

De­fence of­fi­cials fear yes­ter­day’s rul­ing could trig­ger big pay­outs to a fur­ther 630 Iraqis

sus­pected of killing or maim­ing Bri­tish troops in the Iraq war. The fi­nal bill could run to tens of mil­lions of pounds.

The case also raises the prospect of se­nior mil­i­tary fig­ures be­ing tried in the Hague. The four Iraqis were rep­re­sented by Leigh Day, which has been in­volved in a num­ber of con­tro­ver­sial hu­man rights cases.

In his judg­ment, Mr Jus­tice Leg­gatt said the men came to the law firm via a Basra-based agent called Abu Ja­mal through word of mouth. The Mail has re­vealed that Ja­mal touted for busi­ness in the af­ter­math of the war.

Ser­vices police in­ves­ti­gated al­le­ga­tions made by the four men but no per­son­nel were in­ter­viewed or charged.

MPs and former mil­i­tary chiefs sug­gested the process was ‘ridicu­lous’.

‘The Bri­tish pub­lic who pay for the mil­i­tary would never in a mil­lion years think this is fair or just,’ said Johnny Mercer, a Tory MP and former Army cap­tain.

‘Sol­diers should abide by the rule of law, as does ev­ery­body who served, but sol­diers had to make dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions in the heat of a chaotic war. The fact this should be rum­bling on 14 years later is a dis­grace.’

Mr Jus­tice Leg­gatt an­nounced his rul­ing af­ter over­see­ing two High Court tri­als in which the Iraqis gave ev­i­dence in an English court.

Al-Wa­heed, Kamil Na­jim Alseran, and two men known only as MRE and KSU claimed they were un­law­fully im­pris­oned and ill treated by Bri­tish sol­diers.

Their claims were among 967 lodged by Leigh Day, of which 331 claims have been set­tled and four dis­con­tin­ued or struck out. The re­main­ing 632 are un­re­solved.

The MoD claimed the de­ten­tion of the Iraqis was law­ful un­der the Geneva con­ven­tion be­cause they could have pre­sented a risk to se­cu­rity.

But the judge said it was wrong to de­tain sus­pects with­out ev­i­dence that they were com­bat­ants.

He ruled they had been un­law­fully de­tained and mis­treated, and were en­ti­tled to com­pen­sa­tion un­der the Hu­man Rights Act.

He added: ‘There is no as­sump­tion that th­ese four cases are rep­re­sen­ta­tive of oth­ers, but the con­clu­sions reached on the le­gal is­sues and some of the fac­tual is­sues raised are likely to af­fect many of the re­main­ing cases.’

Al-Wa­heed was ar­rested in a house raid in Basra in Fe­bru­ary 2007. The three-times mar­ried fa­ther of eight says he was beaten with ri­fle butts be­fore be­ing tor­tured with ‘elec­tric cut­ters’ dur­ing in­ter­ro­ga­tion.

Bri­tish sol­diers in­sist they found him han­dling a road­side bomb in a prop­erty that con­tained mor­tars and plas­tic ex­plo­sives.

The judg­ment handed down yes­ter­day said Al-Wa­heed’s al­le­ga­tions of mis­treat­ment were ‘greatly ex­ag­ger­ated’.

But it said there was ev­i­dence that showed he had been beaten on the back, punched and suf­fered a fin­ger in­jury. He was awarded £15,000 in ‘re­spect of the beat­ing’ he suf­fered af­ter his ar­rest, and a fur­ther £15,000 for ill treat­ment.

Al-Wa­heed was also handed £3,300 for un­law­ful de­ten­tion for 33 days. This is be­cause it could not be proven he was a threat to se­cu­rity and should have been re­leased af­ter 96 hours.

Un­der the Geneva Con­ven­tion, cap­tives can be de­tained as long as it is jus­ti­fied as an ‘im­per­a­tive’ for se­cu­rity. If they are not a threat, the Euro­pean Con­ven­tion on Hu­man Rights, of which Britain is a sig­na­tory, comes into force.

It says de­tainees should not be held for longer than 96 hours. Alseran, who was cap­tured at his home at the end of March 2003 dur­ing the ad­vance on Basra by Bri­tish forces, was awarded £10,000 for ill treat­ment fol­low­ing his cap­ture, and £2,700 for 27 days of un­law­ful de­ten­tion. The sus­pect MRE was awarded £28,140, in­clud­ing £600 for six days of un­law­ful im­pris­on­ment. KSU won £10,600 for be­ing ‘hooded’ and de­tained too long.

Sapna Ma­lik, a part­ner in the in­ter­na­tional claims team at Leigh Day, said: ‘It is vi­tal those wronged by the UK Gov­ern­ment, whether in this coun­try or over­seas, are able to seek jus­tice and re­dress. Their abil­ity to do so in our courts is not a witch-hunt but a tes­ta­ment to the strength of our democ­racy.’

Shub­haa Srini­vasan, who rep­re­sented MRE and KSU for Leigh Day, said: ‘The de­ci­sion sends a clear mes­sage that no one, in­clud­ing the Bri­tish Gov­ern­ment, should be above the law.’ Last year the Mail re­vealed that Ja­mal was paid nearly £40,000 a year by the Min­istry of De­fence to help the fam­i­lies of sus­pected in­sur­gents killed by Bri­tish sol­diers.

A griev­ing widow claimed that on top of his work for the MoD, he knocked on her door per­suad­ing her to claim com­pen­sa­tion from the Bri­tish Gov­ern­ment.

Fol­low­ing the Mail’s rev­e­la­tions, he was taken off the Gov­ern­ment pay­roll and dis­missed from the job.

An MoD spokesman: ‘ Our mil­i­tary per­son­nel served with great courage in Iraq, of­ten work­ing un­der ex­tremely dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances. We note the court’s rul­ing that th­ese four de­tainees were not treated as they should have been, and are study­ing the judg­ment.’

FFrom ththe MMail,il MMay 2121, 2016

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