Board of Inquiry into the Circumstances Surrounding
The Deaths of the Six Royal Military Policemen in Majarr
Al Kabir on 24 June 2003
appalling incident at Al Majarr Al Kabir on 24 June
2003 resulted in one of the most serious losses suffered
by British Forces since the beginning of operations
in Iraq. It was felt deeply within the British Army,
in particular the Royal Military Police, and struck
a grievous blow to the families of the 6 soldiers. From
the moment news of the incident came through we have
been doing all that we can, in conjunction with the
Iraqi authorities, to bring the perpetrators of this
crime to justice. We have also been working hard to
find out as much as we can about the circumstances leading
up to deaths of the 6 soldiers, to ensure that if there
were lessons for the Service then these would be learned
for the benefit of future operations.
The Service Board of Inquiry into the circumstances
surrounding the deaths of the six soldiers has now completed
its work. This Inquiry is fundamentally about learning
lessons to prevent a recurrence. It is not about attributing
blame or calling individuals to account. These are governed
by separate procedures. It is also entirely internal
in nature. However, we recognise that the families of
the 6 soldiers have a close and fundamental interest
in the Boards work and its findings. We have therefore
sought to keep the families as closely informed as we
can on both these processes. To this end, representatives
of the bereaved families are today receiving a briefing
from the Board President, following which I will meet
them to hear their views and discuss any outstanding
concerns they may have.
We recognise, too, that there is a wider parliamentary
and public interest at stake, which is why we have taken
the unusual step of providing a summary of the Board
of Inquirys findings for Parliament and the press.
I am therefore making arrangements for a copy of the
Boards Opinion, Findings and Recommendations,
together with the overlaid opinions of the chain of
command, to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
So as not to prejudice the criminal investigation, the
Board was instructed to look at the events leading up
to the incident in which the 6 soldiers died and not
to examine the particular circumstances of their deaths.
The Board of Inquiry was an exhaustive internal review
conducted for Service reasons and its report is an open
and frank account of the events of 24 June 2003. The
Board made 10 recommendations (a further two were subsequently
added by the chain of command) concerning military policies
and procedures. Most of these have been accepted and
will be implemented as a matter of priority.
The Board found that the incident at Al Majarr Al Kabir
was a surprise attack, which could not reasonably have
been predicted. The Board also found that a number of
factors may potentially have had a bearing on the deaths
of the 6 soldiers, including issues relating to ammunition,
communications and command relationships within the
Battle Group to which the Royal Military Police platoon
was attached. The Board was not, however, able to state
that any of these factors, either in isolation or in
combination directly determined the six soldiers
I am aware that some of the families have been critical
of the Armys response to the deaths of the 6 soldiers.
I hope they recognise the Boards work for the
thorough and detailed review that it is. I hope, too,
that they now have a much better understanding of the
events leading up to the death of their loved ones and
the wider context in which the events occurred, and
can take some comfort from this.
The families will shortly receive full copies of the
Boards documentation. A separate meeting will
be arranged with the Board President once the families
have had a chance to digest this detail. This will be
a further opportunity for the families to ask questions
and to increase their understanding of the circumstances
surrounding this tragic incident.
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