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Iraqi civilian ‘tortured, killed’ by British troops, court told

Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights will consider whether Tarek Hassan was detained in an 'arbitrary and unlawful' manner and whether Britain should have carried out an investigation into his death.

STRASBOURG // Europe’s rights court yesterday heard claims from the family of an Iraqi civilian who suffered an unexplained and violent death after being taken captive by British troops in 2003.

The Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) will consider whether Tarek Hassan was detained in an “arbitrary and unlawful” manner and whether Britain should have carried out an investigation into his death.

A ruling in the case is not expected for several months.

In an application sent to the court, the family alleges that Mr Hassan “was arrested and detained by British forces in Iraq and was subsequently found dead in unexplained circumstances”.

It also said the body was found “bearing marks of torture and execution”.

The family says Mr Hassan was arrested in Um Qasr, a port city in the Basra region, in April 2003 by British troops who had started detaining high-ranking members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath party in the region.

The troops were seeking Mr Hassan’s brother Khadim Resaan, a leading local Baath member and general in the party’s private army, but he had gone into hiding and they instead detained Mr Hassan.

Family members said they were told Mr Hassan, described in media reports as a footballer in his early 20s, was being taken as a hostage and would be released if his brother gave himself up.

The brother currently lives in Syria and is the applicant in the case.

The British government admits that Mr Hassan was taken captive but denies he was held hostage, saying he was detained as a suspected prisoner of war until his status could be determined.

Mr Hassan was taken to Camp Bucca, a detention facility run by US and British forces.

Britain says he was released in May 2003 after being interrogated by US and British authorities.

But his family did not hear from Mr Hassan and his body was found four months later about 700 kilometres away, near a town north of Baghdad.

The family claims he was shot eight times in the chest and that his hands were bruised and tied with plastic wire.

The British government says there is no evidence of its involvement in his death and points out that Mr Hassan’s body was found in an area that was never under British control.

It also noted that he had been shot with a Kalashnikov, a type of assault rifle that is not normally used by British troops.

Mr Hassan’s brother filed a suit in a British court in 2007, seeking an inquiry into the death and compensation.

The case was dismissed after judges ruled that Camp Bucca was a US military facility so was not under British jurisdiction.

The brother then appealed to the ECHR, asking the court to rule that Britain had violated Mr Hassan’s rights to liberty, security and life and a prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment.

The ECHR has several times previously condemned actions by Britain’s armed forces in Iraq, including July 2011 rulings that said London had violated rights by failing to investigate the deaths of Iraqi civilians and by holding a dual Iraqi-British citizen for three years at a detention facility in Basra.

Camp Bucca, which was closed in September 2009, was at one time the biggest US detention facility in Iraq. More than 100,000 prisoners passed through its doors in six years.

*Agence France-Presse

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