JCHR Press Notice 07-08 No 16




In August 2007, the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) announced an inquiry into allegations of torture and inhuman treatment carried out by British troops in Iraq, following the Baha Mousa case and the evidence which emerged in the recent Court Martial Payne & Ors. This inquiry will follow up the Committee€™s 2006 Report into the UN Convention against Torture and the oral evidence from Lord Goldsmith QC, the then Attorney General, on 26 June 2007. The main questions of interest to the Committee are as follows:

  • Why were some troops in Iraq apparently ignorant of the long-standing ban on the five €˜conditioning€™ techniques? Was this a problem in relation to one brigade, or more widespread?

  • Why was legal advice given to 1st Battalion Queen€™s Lancashire Regiment that the illegal conditioning techniques could be used? Who was ultimately responsible for that advice?

  • Did the Attorney General advise that the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the Human Rights Act did not apply in Iraq? If so, was there any connection between that advice and the legal advice that the illegal techniques could be used?

  • Why did the Government seek to resist application of the ECHR to areas controlled by the UK in Iraq? Would it matter if Articles 2 and 3 ECHR were not regarded as applying in Iraq, given other legal prohibitions on torture and ill-treatment?

  • Following up the UNCAT Report, does the Government remain of the view that it is not necessary expressly to accept the application of all of the rights and duties in the Convention Against Torture to territory under the control of UK troops abroad?

  • What further improvements can be made to the training of troops on the ground, interrogators and legal advisers?

The Committee awaited the publication of the report by Brigadier Robert Aitken into the allegations of abuse and unlawful killing of Iraqi civilians in Iraq before hearing oral evidence. Now that the report has been published, the Committee intends to resume its inquiry and hear oral evidence from relevant witnesses. Further details will be announced in due course.

The Committee would also welcome written evidence in response to the findings of the Aitken Report. It would be helpful to receive such evidence by 29 February. /ENDS