Human rights joint committee seeks truth behind Iraq ‘torture’

A parliamentary committee has launched an inquiry into allegations of torture by British troops in Iraq and allegations that British forces were told that human rights law did not apply there.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) combines members of parliament and lords from all three mainstream political parties.

Its inquiry follows the investigation into the death of 26-year-old Iraqi hotel receptionist Baha Mousa, who was arrested by British soldiers on 14 September 2003 and who later died in army custody, allegedly as a result of beatings.

It also follows evidence that emerged during the recent court martial of Corporal Donald Payne. On 19 September 2006 Payne pleaded guilty to a charge of inhumane treatment to persons as a result of Mousa’s death.

Andrew Dismore, Labour MP for Hendon and the JCHR chairman, said: “It’s early days and I can’t make any prediction about the outcome of the report or its consequences. But the purpose of the committee is to influence government policy.”

The JCHR inquiry also follows its 2006 report into the UK’s adherence to the UN Convention Against Torture and oral evidence given by Lord Goldsmith QC, then Attorney General, on 26 June 2007.

It will seek to discover whether Goldsmith advised the 1st Battalion Queen’s Lancashire regiment that the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the Human Rights Act did not apply in Iraq, and whether the Government has sought to resist application of the ECHR in UK-controlled areas of Iraq.

The JCHR will also seek to investigate why legal advice was given to the regiment that five illegal ‘conditioning’ techniques banned under the ECHR could be used, and who gave that advice.

However, JCHR member Douglas Carswell, Conservative MP for Harwich, slammed the inquiry. He said: “It’s an absolute disgrace that we’re doing this investigation. I think the case for pulling out of the European Convention on Human Rights grows daily.”