Sunday, 5 May 2013
The brutal death of Baha Mousa
AT Williams writes for The Guardian (May 3rd): First, there was a farcical court martial. Seven soldiers were prosecuted for the death, the ill-treatment of nine other prisoners held with Mousa, or neglect of duty. But those soldiers who came to give evidence suddenly could no longer remember what had happened; the judge advocate lamented the collective amnesia that had set in and had little choice but to dismiss most of the charges. Six defendants were acquitted. The seventh, Corporal Donald Payne, was convicted only because he pleaded guilty to inhuman treatment; he was sentenced to 12 months in prison. No one was held responsible for Mousa's killing or even for allowing the system of torture (for that was what it was: hooding, handcuffing, enforced stress positions, sleep deprivation, beatings) to become an institutionalised practice.
My book A Very British Killing, which has just been shortlisted for the Orwell Prize, is an attempt to make sense of all this. It became a forensic detective story of sorts. The details of the military police investigation and the legal hearings that followed needed to be laid out with precision. I hope that was achieved. But the shame is that ultimately it's a detective story without resolution. Despite all the available evidence, a damning report at the end of the Baha Mousa inquiry in 2011, and army generals queuing up to lament this "stain on the British army", still no one has been brought to justice.