A British court ruled on Tuesday in favor of a group of more than 100 Iraqi civilians who have demanded a new public inquiry into allegations of torture against British soldiers.
Judges at the Court of Appeal in London overturned a decision by a lower court, which had backed the government's refusal to order a probe into claims of systematic abuse in British-controlled detention centers after the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Some 128 Iraqis claim torture and inhuman and degrading treatment by British soldiers and interrogators in Iraq between March in that year and December 2008.
The High Court ruled last December that an inquiry was unnecessary but the appeal court in London on Tuesday ordered defense minister Philip Hammond to reconsider.
Three appeal judges said a body set up by the government to probe the claims lacked independence, and also accused the authorities of failing to meet their obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.
Hammond has until November 30 to decide whether to seek to challenge the ruling in the Supreme Court, England's highest court.
“We will examine the judgment very carefully,” said a defense ministry spokesman.
Lead claimant Ali Zaki Mousa, who is from the southern Iraqi city of Basra and alleges he endured months of beatings by British soldiers, said the ruling had restored “our confidence in the British people.”
“When we suffered a lot under the British army and witnessed a catalogue of abuses, we had the impression that that is what Britain is,” he said.
“But thanks to the efforts of our lawyers and the victories in the courts this has changed our impression.”
The appeal court found the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), set up by the government to probe the claims, lacked independence as it included members of the military police, who might themselves be accused of wrongdoing.
“We are of the view that the practical independence of IHAT is, at least as a matter or reasonable perception, substantially compromised,” said judge Maurice Kay.
Two British inquiries have already been launched into similar claims.