Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Inquiry about?
Allegations have been made in judicial review proceedings that the human rights of a number of Iraqi nationals were abused by British troops in the aftermath of a firefight in 2004 near Al –Majar which became known as the battle of Danny Boy, this being the name of a nearby permanent vehicle checkpoint. The allegations include ones of unlawful killing and mistreatment.
What was the purpose of the Judicial Review
The Judicial Review proceedings sought declarations that there had been violations of relevant human rights through a failure on the part of the Secretary of State to conduct an inquiry compliant with the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights into the alleged unlawful killing and ill-treatment of detainees following the Danny Boy battle.
Why has the decision been taken to have an Inquiry now, and by whom?
In light of the Treasury Solicitor’s inability to assure the Court that full disclosure of relevant documentation had been made, the Secretary of State for Defence, Bob Ainsworth, proposed that there be an investigation into the allegations of unlawful killing and the specific allegations of ill treatment. The Secretary of State expressed an intention that the investigation would meet the procedural requirements of Article 2 and Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Inquiry was announced by the Secretary of State for Defence in a Written Ministerial Statement, on 25 November 2009.
What has the Inquiry been set up to establish?
The allegations made in the Judicial Review proceedings are of the utmost seriousness. The purpose of the Inquiry is to seek to establish the facts as required by its terms of reference. The Chairman will make appropriate recommendations in light of his findings in fact.
How does this Inquiry relate to the investigations that have already taken place?
The Inquiry’s terms of reference require it to have regard to the information obtained in the previous RMP investigations undertaken in 2004-2005 and 2007-2008.
Could this Inquiry lead to criminal proceedings against British soldiers?
The Chairman is to establish the facts so far as is necessary to fulfil his Terms of Reference. He must not rule on, nor does he have the power to determine, any person’s civil or criminal liability. The Chairman cannot award compensation or damages. These are matters for the Courts. However section 2(2) Inquiries Act 2005 makes it clear that an inquiry is not to be inhibited in the discharge of its functions by any likelihood of civil or criminal liability being inferred from the facts determined by the Inquiry or from the recommendations it makes.
What role will the Ministry of Defence be playing in this Inquiry?
The Chairman is minded to invite the Ministry of Defence to be a Core Participant. Furthermore the Ministry of Defence has given unequivocal assurances as to its intention to provide full co-operation to the Inquiry.
What is the format of the Inquiry?
The Inquiry is established under the Inquiries Act 2005. Examples of other inquiries established under the 2005 Act include the Baha Mousa Inquiry in England, the E Coli Inquiry in Wales and the ICL Inquiry jointly between Scotland and England.
Such inquiries are essentially inquisitorial in nature. Subject to the legislative provisions their procedure and conduct are matters for the Chairman to decide. As such no two inquiries are the same.
The Inquiry is charged with carrying out an investigation within its terms of reference.
Further details as to the procedures to be adopted will be indicated at appropriate preliminary hearings and reported on the website in due course.
How long will the Inquiry take?
It is not possible to say how long the Inquiry will take at this stage.
Where will the Inquiry be held?
The Inquiry’s permanent offices and hearing room are located in the City of London at Finlaison House, 15-17 Furnival Street, London EC4A 1AB. Finlaison House is a government building with appropriate facilities and space. It contains a modern hearing room purposely designed for public inquiries.
Will records of proceedings be available on the website?
During the public hearings transcripts of each day’s hearing and the evidence considered will be published unless a restriction notice made under the Inquiries Act is in place.
We will also publish details of forthcoming hearings and a witness schedule at least a week in advance.
Any directions or orders made by the Chairman will be published on the homepage as well as in the appropriate section of the website.
How much will the Inquiry cost and who is paying?
It is too soon to provide an estimate of the cost of the Inquiry. The cost will depend on a number of factors including the extent and nature of necessary investigation, the nature of evidence uncovered, the number of witnesses and the length of the Inquiry.
The Inquiry is funded through the Ministry of Defence. The Inquiry will publish details of its expenditure on a regular basis on its website.
Can I put in a Freedom of Information request for information relating to the Inquiry?
The Inquiry has published its Freedom of Information policy . The Inquiry is not covered by the Freedom of Information Act 2000 but will seek to be as open as possible.
Can members of the public and media attend hearings?
Yes. Hearings will be presumed to be open unless, exceptionally, the Chairman directs that they should be held in closed session. There is a public gallery at Finlaison House and separate facilities for the media.
What parking is available at Finlaison House?
There are no parking facilities provided at Finlaison House.
What are the rules surrounding public attendance?
Members of the public are asked to follow certain standards of behaviour, similar to those in a courtroom. A leaflet outlining these standards will be given to anyone entering the hearing centre.
Who are core participants?
Rule 5(1) of the Inquiry Rules 2006 makes it clear that a core participant is usually someone who played or may have played a direct and significant role in relation to the matters to which the Inquiry relates; or who has a significant interest in an important aspect of the matter to which the Inquiry relates; or who may be subject to significant or explicit criticism during the proceedings at the inquiry or in the report.
Witnesses are not necessarily core participants. There are provisions in the legislation through which an individual witness’ legal or financial interests are protected in appropriate circumstances.
A core participant is not necessarily a core participant for the entirety of the Inquiry.
Who will be represented before the Inquiry?
The Chairman may designate persons, bodies or organisations as Core Participants in due course, provided that person, body or organisation consents to be so designated. Anyone so designated may appoint a legal representative.
Any witness may also appoint a legal representative.
An appointment of a legal representative does not give a right for any legal expenses incurred to be paid for by the public. Procedures and protocols for applying for assistance with legal expenses will be published in due course. Members, or former, members of large organisations will be expected to be provided with any legal assistance considered appropriate by that organisation.
Role of legal adviser to a CP?
The role of solicitors and counsel engaged on behalf of Core Participants is to assist their Core Participant clients to assist the Inquiry.
How do I contact the claimants in the Judicial Review?
Any request for comment from the claimants should be addressed to their legal representatives Public Interest Lawyers of 8 Hylton Street Birmingham B18 6HN.
Who will be giving evidence and will this information be provided in advance?
The inquiry will publish a witness timetable at least a week in advance of each day’s oral hearings. It is too soon to say who might be called as witnesses.
Have witnesses been offered immunity from Prosecution?
Not at this stage. It is too soon in the process.
What involvement will the Secretary of State for Defence have in this Inquiry?
The Minister responsible for the Inquiry, in this case the Secretary of State for Defence, has various powers and duties under the Inquiries Act 2005 in relation to the conduct of the Inquiry.
Why was Sir Thayne Forbes appointed to lead the Inquiry?
Sir Thayne Forbes is well qualified. He was called to the Bar in 1968 and appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1984. He was made Official Referee in 1990 and in 1993 he became a High Court Judge assigned to the Queen’s Bench Division. As Presiding Judge of the Northern Circuit he conducted the trial of Dr Harold Shipman on 15 counts of murder. From 2001 to 2004 he was the judge in charge of the Technology and Construction Court. On 25 November 2009, Sir Thayne Forbes was invited by the Secretary of State for Defence to be the Chairman of the Al Sweady Inquiry.
To whom is Sir Thayne Forbes accountable?
As Chairman of the Inquiry Sir Thayne Forbes acts in an independent capacity but he will make his report in due course to the Secretary of State for Defence.
Will the Chairman give interviews?
Sir Thayne Forbes has no current plans to do so.