Gruesome pictures of dead Iraqis and death certificates detailing gunshot wounds, broken bones, missing eyes, a missing penis and mutilation, have been shown on the opening day of a long-awaited public inquiry into allegations mistreatment of detainees by British troops.

The Al-Sweady Inquiry is examining claims that UK soldiers murdered and tortured Iraqis after the "Battle of Danny Boy" in Maysan Province, southern Iraq, in May 2004.

The inquiry are aiming to identify how 28 Iraqi men died.

Three have death certificates which could show signs of torture. Several had missing eyes, another a missing penis.


On the opening day, the inquiry spoke to various journalists who had written about the Battle of Danny Boy and its aftermath.

One claimed to have seen apparently mutilated bodies, while other journalists had interviewed people allegedly connected to incident.

The inquiry was ordered after Hussein Fadel Abass, Atiyah Sayid Abdelreza, Hussein Jabbari Ali, Mahdi Jassim Abdullah and Ahmad Jabbar Ahmood claimed violations of their Human Rights at the High Court.

The claim related to events which began on May 14 2004, when Iraqi insurgents ambushed vehicles belonging to the Argyll and Southern Highlanders near to a permanent vehicle checkpoint known as Danny Boy which was some 5km north-east of Majar Al Kabir on route six in Iraq.

A fierce battle ensued which involved not only the Argylls but also soldiers from the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment.

"It resulted in many Iraqis being killed and in two British soldiers being wounded," Jonathan Acton Davis QC, counsel to the inquiry, described.

Acton Davis said enemy dead would normally have been left on the battlefield, but British soldiers were apparently given an order to identify the dead to try to find a man thought to be involved in the murder of six British soldiers in 2003.

As part of that order, the bodies of 20 Iraqis were taken back to CAN, and nine were detained, he said.

"It was the claimants' case that not all of the 20 died on the battlefield, and that at least one of them was murdered by a British soldier after he had been returned alive to CAN," Acton Davis said.

Acton Davis said it was claimed that Hamid Al-Sweady - whom the inquiry was named after - was killed at CAN either on May 14 2004 after he had been detained, or on May 15 before his body and that of 19 other Iraqis were handed back to local Iraqi authorities.

He said there was a "stark dispute" between Iraqi and military evidence.

The MoD has vigorously denied the allegations, saying any deaths happened on the battlefield.

"The Iraqi witnesses say that the evidence points to there having been a number of Iraqi men taken into CAN alive by the British military on May 14 2004 and who were handed back to their families dead the next day," Acton Davis said in his statement today.

"The military say that the evidence points to 20 Iraqi dead having been recovered following the battle on May 14 2004, also nine detainees, and that they were taken back to CAN and handed back the following day.

"In an ideal world an inquiry such as this might hope to have a forensically sound video and/or photographic evidence of the arrival and departure of Iraqi dead and detainees at the British camp so that the identity, numbers, and physical condition of each person at each stage could be established with little room for doubt or disagreement," he said.

alsweady iraq

Chairman of the inquiry, Sir Thayne Forbes arrives at Finlaison House, central London for The Al-Sweady Inquiry into claims that British troops murdered and tortured civilians during the Iraq War

"Alas, such evidence is not available."

Acton Davis said although there was no dispute that a number of dead Iraqis were handed back to the local population by the British military near the gates of CAN on May 15 2004, there was a "lack of agreement" even about the number and identities of the bodies.

"It was therefore essential as a first step to try to identify each person who was killed on May 15 and thereafter to establish which bodies were at CAN during that 24-hour period."

Acton Davis said after examining death certificates, the inquiry would look to establish the circumstances and cause of death of 28 people.

Hamid Al-Sweady was one of the men who showed signs of torture, the inquiry heard.

Acton Davis said the inquiry, ordered by former defence secretary Bob Ainsworth in November 2009, will look at allegations made in the Judicial Review of unlawful killings at CAN; of the ill-treatment of five Iraqi nationals at CAN; and ill-treatment of five Iraqi nationals at Shaibah.

"The claimants, the military and indeed the public is entitled to an independent and informative investigation into the allegations made, even if some of them were not raised in the Judicial Review proceedings," he said.

He said the inquiry would not investigate the legality of the use of force on the battlefield nor the command and control of soldiers who used such force.

Video footage had also been obtained of dead Iraqis arriving at hospital after being handed over by British forces, and there were later obtained interviews with seven of nine men detained at CAN.

Acton Davis said there were five main groups of Iraqi witnesses - nine detainees; medical and ambulance personnel; family members of the dead; miscellaneous witnesses and local employed civilians working with the army.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve has agreed to grant witnesses to the inquiry immunity from prosecution based on their own evidence, the inquiry also heard.