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Baha Mousa (Public Inquiry)

Defence written statement – made on 21st July 2008.

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Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence, Secretary of State, Scotland Office, The Secretary of State for Defence, The Secretary of State for Scotland

In a written statement on 14 May (Hansard, column 60WS) I announced that there would be a public inquiry into the death of Baha Mousa, who died in Iraq in September 2003 while being detained by British soldiers.

The inquiry will be held under the Inquiries Act 2005 and it will be chaired by the Rt Hon. Lord Justice Gage, who is about to retire from the Court of Appeal. Lord Justice Gage is a very experienced judge and I am grateful to him for taking on this important task. He has decided to chair the inquiry alone, that is without other panel members. He may, however, decide to appoint assessors who can assist him with expert knowledge and advice.

The inquiry's terms of reference are:

To investigate and report on the circumstances surrounding the death of Baha Mousa and the treatment of those detained with him, taking account of the investigations which have already taken place, in particular where responsibility lay for approving the practice of conditioning detainees by any members of the 1st Battalion The Queen's Lancashire Regiment in Iraq in 2003, and to make recommendations.

In my statement on 14 May I described the death of Mr. Mousa as a disturbing incident; this was not just because a man died in the custody of British soldiers, but because an investigation by the Royal Military Police and subsequent court martial highlighted further important questions that needed to be answered. I am confident that the terms of reference I have set out will not only enable the inquiry to conduct a thorough examination of the circumstances surrounding the death, but are sufficiently focused to ensure that its conclusions can be reached in a timely manner.

The inquiry will, of course, have the full support of the Ministry of Defence. Much work is in hand to ensure that the inquiry has the material it needs and that those who will be required to assist the inquiry are given legal advice.