A public inquiry into allegations that British troops tortured and murdered Iraqis revealed today the MoD failed to hand over hundreds of potentially relevant documents to a judicial review.
The startling revelation came during the opening day of the long-awaited Al-Sweady inquiry into allegations that up to 20 Iraqis were murdered and detainees tortured by British troops following a firefight at a checkpoint in Maysan Province, southern Iraq, in May 2004.
An original investigation criticised the MoD, and in particular former defence secretary Bob Ainsworth who it found repeatedly failed in his duty to disclose evidence in the case.
However the sheer scale of the amount of evidence not disclosed by the MoD was not known until today.
Lead counsel for the inquiry Jonathan Acton Davis QC revealed that its investigators had to request disclosure from the MoD some 250 times before they gained access documents relevant to the case.
During its investigations the inquiry team found thousands of previously undisclosed documents including nine detainee files that had not been disclosed to the claimants or the court in the judicial review proceedings, he said.
In all the inquiry has found over 8,000 newly disclosed documents.
The inquiry will look at allegations that a number of Iraqis were unlawfully killed at Camp Abu Naji on May 14 and 15 2004 and that five Iraqi detainees were tortured and ill-treated there, and again between May 14 and September 23 2004 at a detention facility at Shaibah Logistics Base.
Mr Acton Davis said the inquiry aims to identify the circumstances of the deaths of 28 Iraqi men in total.
The tribunal heard that death certificates for three of the men documented signs of torture, a number had missing eyes and one man's penis was missing.
It is 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.
Mr Acton Davis said there was a "stark dispute" between Iraqi and military evidence.
The MoD has vigorously denied the allegations, saying the deaths occurred on the battlefield.
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.
Chaired by retired Judge Sir Thayne Forbes it is expected to last at least a year.
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