The Ministry of Defense said it is “extremely sorry” for the death of an Iraqi teenager who drowned after being forced into a Basra canal by four British soldiers.
Fifteen year old Ahmed Jabbar Kareem Ali drowned in the Shatt al-Basra canal in May 2003 after he was detained by British troops on suspicion of looting near the Basra general hospital.
He and three other suspected looters were forced into the water by the soldiers for a “soaking” but Ahmed got into difficulty and drowned.
A report by the former high court judge Sir George Newman found that the teenager was “aggressively manhandled and assaulted” after his arrest before being taken to the waterway in an armoured vehicle.
Newman’s reports said: “The soldiers, having detained him for looting, forced him to enter the canal and left him floundering”
The judge said Ahmed had been “aggressively manhandled and assaulted” by soldiers who then unlawfully forced him into the waterway.
“He should not have been detained and held in armed and confined custody in a Warrior [vehicle], he should not have been transported in the Warrior to the canal, he should not have been forced to enter the canal, let alone left there to flounder and drown,” the report noted.
Newman said the boy did not know how to swim and therefore, the British soldiers’ failure to help before drowning was the “plain and certain” cause of his death.
“Notwithstanding the unlawful treatment involved in getting him into the water, his death could have been avoided because he could and should have been rescued after it became clear that he was floundering,” he noted.
Newman’s condemnation led to the apology of Britain’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) over the incident, with an MoD spokesman saying, “This was a grave incident for which we are extremely sorry.”
He further noted that, “We are committed to investigating allegations of wrongdoing by UK forces and will use Sir George’s findings to learn lessons to help ensure nothing like this happens again.”
A British court tried the soldiers for manslaughter but they were acquitted in 2006.