Public Policy Center, University of Nebraska


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Published by Abdel-Monem, Kennedy & Apostolova in Florida Journal of International Law (2005) 17. Copyright 2005, University of Florida.


On the evening of September 13, 2003, British soldiers from the Queen's Lancashire Regiment arrested several Iraqi men at a hotel in Basra. The soldiers took the hotel receptionist - Baha Mousa - and several other men to a holding facility previously used by the Iraqi Intelligence Service. Coalition personnel reportedly hooded the men, forced them into stress positions and severely beat them in the abdomen and genitals. Mousa was allegedly taken to another room where the soldiers further beat him. He later died. The death certificate issued after the incident indicated that Mousa had died of "cardio-respiratory arrest asphyxia." His family was later offered $3,000 in compensation.

Attorneys took Mousa's case - and five other claims by Iraqi plaintiffs about alleged killings by British forces - before the High Court of England and Wales, asserting that the British government violated human rights protections guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights through the U.K. Human Rights Act of 1998. The crucial question before the High Court was whether or not the United Kingdom was obligated to uphold European Convention rights and protections during its military occupation of Iraq. On December 14,2004, the High Court ruled in R (on the application of Al Skeini) v Secretary of State for Defence that U.K. jurisdiction extended to Iraq in the case of Mousa's death, and by virtue of its Convention obligations to prohibit torture and protect human life of persons within its jurisdiction, that the United Kingdom had violated the European Convention even though the death took place in Iraq. The Al Skeini case is a major ruling because it provides guidance on when the United Kingdom is obligated to uphold the European Convention on Human Rights in areas both outside its own borders and outside Europe itself.

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