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The legal challenge over the deaths of Iraqi civilians allegedly at the hands of British troops is continuing.

The Government has so far refused to order independent inquiries into some 37 deaths.

But grieving families have begun a High Court bid to challenge the decision.

Yesterday, the court had heard shock allegations that British troops serving in Iraq were involved in unlawful killings and torture.

Two senior judges heard claims that detainees were hooded, deprived of sleep, had freezing water poured over them.

They also heard how they became the victims of "soldiers' games", including a version of kickboxing in which British troops would compete "as to who could kickbox one of us the furthest".

Lawyers for the Iraqis are arguing in six test cases that the European Convention on Human Rights, and the Human Rights Act, place the Government under a duty to carry out "a full and independent investigation".

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon is resisting the challenge on the grounds that the human rights convention does not apply to British troops in Iraq.

His lawyers also contend that the Human Rights Act, which incorporates the convention into domestic law, is "exclusively territorial" and can only be applied on UK territory.

The six test cases include the shootings of four Iraqi civilians, allegedly by soldiers from the Battle Group of the King's Regiment. The victims were either at home, walking in the street or driving when they were shot.

The two other deaths, allegedly caused by soldiers from the Queen's Lancashire Regiment, relate to one Iraqi police commissioner who was shot while on his way to a judge's house, and that of hotel worker Baha Mousa, 26, who was allegedly beaten to death while in custody.


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