Britain pays $6 million damages to Iraqis over abuse

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Ministry of Defence has agreed to pay nearly three million pounds ($6 million) in compensation to a group of Iraqi civilians beaten and tortured by British troops in southern Iraq in 2003.

The settlement, the first of its kind on such a scale paid by Britain to detainees in Iraq, follows years of legal proceedings brought by lawyers representing nine Iraqis, including the father of one who died while in British custody in the southern city of Basra.

The claimants will share 2.83 million pounds said, Leigh Day, the law firm representing them.

“Our clients have been through hell over the last few years and this settlement will go someway to enabling them to have some semblance of a decent future life,” Martyn Day, a senior partner with the firm, said in a statement.

The Ministry of Defence admitted in March that its troops had breached the human rights of the Iraqis, an admission that opened the way for negotiations on a settlement.

In a statement, the ministry described the settlement as amicable and said it had been made along with an apology.

“It is right that compensation has been agreed through mediation,” a spokesman said. “The army has done a great deal since these cases to improve procedures and training.”

The men were rounded up when British troops carried out a raid on a hotel in Basra in September 2003 looking for insurgents. They were detained for more than 36 hours, during which time they were violently interrogated, beaten and abused.

One of the men, Baha Musa, the hotel receptionist, died after receiving 93 injuries, including a broken nose and broken ribs. He was 26 at the time and left two children. His wife had died two months earlier from a brain tumor.

British soldiers serving in Iraq have faced a range of accusations of abuse and torture. A total of 21 soldiers have been court-martialed over their actions, but only one has been found guilty after admitting mistreatment of prisoners.

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