UK & World News

  • 8 December 2013, 9:28

Iraq Deaths: UK Troops To Face 11 Inquiries

British troops are facing 11 separate inquiries into their conduct in Iraq following a ruling by the High Court, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has confirmed.

The "semi-inquests" will be held into cases of 11 Iraqi civilians who died in UK custody after the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Each of the hearings will take an average of three months and the total cost to the taxpayer will be 2m, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

They follow an increasing amount of legal scrutiny being turned on the Armed Forces in the wake of the case of Sgt Alexander Blackman, the Royal Marine sentenced to a minimum of 10 years in prison for murdering a wounded Taliban insurgent in Afghanistan.

There have been calls for his sentence to be reduced or quashed over fears he would need special protection in prison because of the danger he will be attacked by Islamists.

One in three people (35%) believes he should serve no jail time at all, according to a poll by the Mail on Sunday.

Another 23% believe he should do five years, 20% are in favour of 10 years, while 22% think he should be imprisoned for more than 10 years.

Commenting on the poll, Sir Gerald Howarth, a former defence minister and current MP for army garrison town Aldershot, said he agreed the sentence was too harsh.

"The highest standard of discipline must be maintained in the Armed Forces and this man obviously committed an offence," Sir Gerald told the MoS. "But 10 years is too much. Five years would be more appropriate."

But former Lib Dem leader and ex-Royal Marine Lord Ashdown said he was content with the judge's decision.

An order banning the naming of Blackman, 39, was lifted by High Court judges after he was found guilty at a court martial in Bulford, Wiltshire.

Former senior officers and MPs reacted against that decision, amid claims he may need protection from Islamists in prison, the Sunday Telegraph said.

Lord West of Spithead, a former first lord of the Admiralty, said: "This is a man who has put his life on the line many times. I am not sure due account has been taken of this."

Blackman shot the Afghan, who had been seriously injured in an attack by an Apache helicopter, in the chest at close range with a 9mm pistol.

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