09 March, 2013

Iraq ~ The Al-Sweady Inquiry

The process of trying to establish the truth about events during the Iraq War and its aftermath continues.

On 4th March 2013, the Al-Sweady Inquiry commenced.  A preliminary hearing was held 3 years ago on 9th March 2010 and four "Directions" hearings took place in the period up to 18th December 2012.  All this appears to be a particularly slow, cumbersome and already costly process with costs (at February 2013) of almost £16m.

The Inquiry is chaired by retired High Court Judge Sir Thayne Forbes and is being held under the Inquiries Act 2005.  It was set up by Labour Minister Bob Ainsworth and given the following terms of reference:

"To investigate and report on the allegations made by the claimants in the Al- Sweady judicial review proceedings against British soldiers of (1) unlawful killing at Camp Abu Naji on 14 and 15 May 2004, and (2) the ill-treatment of five Iraqi nationals detained at Camp Abu Naji and subsequently at the divisional temporary detention facility at Shaibah Logistics Base between 14 May and 23 September 2004, taking account of the investigations which have already taken place, and to make recommendations".

It appears that the Inquiry is continuing to call for witnesses.  The Inquiry's website states:

While a number of potential witnesses have been successfully contacted, a number have not responded to letters and may have moved address. A significant number remain to be traced.

Any military personnel who were engaged at Danny Boy, were present at Camp Abu Naji on 14th and 15th of May 2004 and/or connected to the Detention Facilities at Shaibah between 15th May and 23rd September 2004 should contact the Inquiry without delay (Tom Foley 020 7025 4478 or email Tom.Foley@alsweadyinquiry.org). Any person who is unsure as to whether or not they may be a witness, is requested please to check with the Inquiry. 

Al-Sweady, an Iraqi national, alleges that his nephew was unlawfully killed whilst in British detention at Camp Abu Naji in May 2004.   Five others claim that they were mistreated by British troops.  The Al-Sweady Inquiry seeks to comply with the requirements of Articles 2 and 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The judicial review proceedings referred to in the Inquiry's terms of reference actually took place in 2009 - see R (Al-Sweady and others) v Secretary of State for Defence [2009] EWHC 2387 (Scott -Baker LJ, Silber and Sweeney JJ).  The need for an inquiry was actually conceded by the government but the judicial review proceedings contain considerable criticism of the government's lamentable approach regarding disclosure to the court of information.  At the time of this judgment,  costs in excess of £1m had been wasted - (see para 13 of the judgment).

Additional items:

The Inquiry's website

Battle of Danny Boy 14th May 2004

The Independent 8th March 2013 - Iraq: a history that must not be repeated 

The Guardian 11th March 2013 - Iraq torture claims 'utterly groundless', Al-Sweady inquiry hears

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