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Volume 450: debated on Tuesday 24 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what investigations are taking place into extrajudicial assassinations in Basra; and how many (a) arrests and (b) convictions have resulted from such investigations; (91462)

(2) what steps have been taken to remove the influence of sectarian political parties from the Basra Police Service;

(3) what steps have been taken to prevent extra-judicial killings in Basra; and if he will make a statement.

We work closely with the Iraqi Security Forces, including with the Iraqi Police, to maintain security in Basra and to prevent acts of violence. The removal of militia influence within the Iraqi Security Forces is a key element of the programme of reform in the security sector.

UK forces do not have the ability to prosecute Iraqis, though we do, where it is deemed essential, intern small numbers on the grounds that they represent an imperative threat to security. Where there is an evidential case against individuals, we aim to transfer them to the Iraqi judicial system for investigation and prosecution.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what training is being given to British troops to ensure that they respect the rights of civilians in Iraq. (92943)

All service personnel receive training on the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) during their initial training. It ranges from up to two hours of training for soldiers, through to eight hours of training for junior officers, including a practical exercise on search, arrest and detention. While LOAC and its implications are first introduced during initial training, it is recognised that this is a very complex topic for the inexperienced and requires continual reinforcement during productive service. Therefore, the content and frequency of the training in productive service is appropriate to rank, responsibility and force readiness. Specifically, all army and RM personnel are required to undertake annual refresher training in LOAC each year as part of their Mandatory Annual Training Tests programme. LOAC training includes instruction on the treatment of combatants, POWs and civilians, as well as rules of engagement, the Law of Self Defence and emphasises that only reasonable and proportionate force may be used where a necessity of defence arises. Additional and enhanced LOAC training is also provided, again related to rank and role of the individual, in command and staff courses for selected SNCOs and officers.

Prior to deployment on operations all personnel undertake pre-deployment training, which includes LOAC and theatre-specific operational law and cultural awareness briefings. These lessons are also reinforced during in-theatre arrival briefings. Units and personnel specifically detailed to undertake prisoner handling/detainee duties undertake 10 days of specialist training, both theoretical and practical, under the control of the Provost Marshal (Army).This training has been subject to International Committee of the Red Cross and British Red Cross observations, and we have engaged both organisations to ensure UK planning for treatment of detainees is appropriate.

In addition to LOAC training, Service personnel are aware that under the Service Discipline Acts, they are subject to English criminal law wherever they are serving. This provides that any conduct on operations which would constitute a criminal offence if committed in England, can be prosecuted by courts-martial.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what support will be available to extended families of the Staffordshire Regiment who will be serving in Iraq. (95521)

The unit has held pre-deployment briefings for families of its personnel at its home base in Wiltshire and in Wolverhampton to provide information about the operational tour and what support is available to both personnel and families. All families have been issued with deployment packs containing contact details of both the Unit Welfare Officer and the Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre, either directly or via the soldiers. The unit has also requested addresses and e-mail addresses of family members, including partners, so that they can provide regular updates from theatre to those families away from the home base in Wiltshire.

The first point of contact for families should normally be the Unit Welfare Office, which remains in the UK when the unit is deployed, though they can also contact the Confidential Support Line, Army Welfare Service or in an emergency the Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre.

In the unfortunate event of any casualties, the families and other nominated emergency contacts will be supported by the Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre and Visiting Officers, who will keep them informed of developments and assist the families in accessing any appropriate welfare support.