LONDON — An independent report into the death of an Iraqi hotel clerk during the Iraq war is expected to clear the British army of systematically torturing civilians, a British newspaper reported on Sunday.
However, the report, due to be published on Sept. 8, will strongly criticize serving and former soldiers for their conduct and describes numerous failures in the military chain of command, the Sunday Telegraph said.
The previous Labor government ordered a public inquiry in 2008 into the death of Basra hotel worker Baha Mousa and the alleged mistreatment of nine other civilians at the hands of British soldiers in southern Iraq in September 2003.
The inquiry heard evidence from 247 witnesses over 115 days of hearings.
Mousa, 26, was beaten and died about 24 hours after he and six others were arrested by the British army during a sweep of hotels in the city of Basra looking for weapons.
The inquiry, chaired by retired judge William Gage, tried to establish how Mousa died and examined the British military's use of banned techniques to try to break prisoners during interrogation.
A post-mortem revealed Mousa sustained 93 injuries, including a fractured nose and two ribs, though pathologists disagree on the exact cause of death.
Some of the detainees said they were kicked. Another said he was scalded with hot water and urinated upon.
At a court martial in 2007, one British soldier pleaded guilty to mistreating Mousa and was sentenced to a year in prison, while six other soldiers were acquitted.
In 2008, Britain's Defense Ministry agreed to pay nearly $4.9 million in compensation to a group of Iraqi civilians, including Mousa's family, who were beaten and tortured by British troops in southern Iraq in 2003.
Washington's closest ally, Britain sent 45,000 troops to join the 2003 invasion that toppled Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Most British soldiers had left by 2009.
A broader inquiry into Britain's involvement in the Iraq war has yet to produce its report.
The Sunday Telegraph said the inquiry had found no evidence that British soldiers conducted wholesale abuse, torture and murder of suspected insurgents in southern Iraq.
But it said several soldiers had been sent letters warning them that they would be personally criticised in the report.
Commenting on the article, the Defence Ministry said the vast majority of British soldiers who served in Iraq behaved with courage, professionalism and decency.
"Nonetheless we acknowledge that the actions that led to the death of Baha Mousa were shameful and inexcusable," a ministry spokesman said.
"Lessons have been learned and much has been done since 2003 but we look forward to the inquiry's report and will look carefully at any recommendations they make," he added.
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