LONDON – Three British soldiers face war crimes charges for the inhumane treatment of detainees in Iraq (search), the government said Tuesday. One soldier is also charged with manslaughter in the death of an Iraqi civilian.
It was the first time British troops have faced war crimes charges stemming from the Iraq war, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense said.
The troops will face a British court martial under the International Criminal Court Act (search) in connection with events surrounding the death of a hotel receptionist who was arrested in September 2003 along with other Iraqi civilians and taken to a British military base, said Attorney General Lord Goldsmith (search).
Cpl. Donald Payne, 34, is charged with manslaughter in the death of 26-year-old Baha Mousa and with the war crime of treating him inhumanely, according to a charge sheet released by Goldsmith's office.
Payne is also charged with inhumanely treating eight other Iraqi detainees and with perverting the course of justice by urging anyone questioned about Mousa's death to say he banged his head and died accidentally.
The government offered no further details on Mousa's death and did not say what happened to the other detainees.
Lance Cpl. Wayne Crowcroft, 21, and Pvt. Darren Fallon, 22, are also charged with the war crime of inhumanely treating detained Iraqi civilians. All three are in the Queen's Lancashire Regiment.
Four other soldiers face lesser charges relating to the same operation.
Lord Goldsmith also announced that four soldiers would face a court martial for manslaughter charges in the death of a 17-year-old Iraqi who was among three civilians arrested for suspected looting in Basra on May 8, 2003. The soldiers punched and kicked the suspects and forced them to swim in a canal. Ahmed Jabbar Kareem Ali drowned.
Sgt. Carle Selman, 38, of the Scots Guards; Guardsman Martin McGing, 21, Guardsman Joseph McCleary, 23 — both of the Irish Guards — and another soldier whose name was not released were charged in his death.
Britain has about 8,500 troops in Iraq, mostly in the generally peaceful Shiite south, where support for the Shiite-led government in Baghdad is stronger.
While British troops in Iraq have not been accused of prisoner abuse of the scale uncovered at the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison, there have been several reports of ill-treatment of detainees. British officials have investigated almost 800 claims for death, injury or property damage by British troops.
Earlier, this year the British military reduced the sentences of two soldiers imprisoned for abusing Iraqi civilians in a case that drew comparisons with the Abu Ghraib scandal. Both were found guilty of abusing Iraqi civilians suspected of looting in May 2003.