Denmark’s supreme court on Tuesday overturned a lower court ruling ordering the government to compensate 18 civilians tortured during the Iraq war in a joint operation by Iraqi forces and a Danish battalion.
A total of 23 Iraqi plaintiffs had sued Denmark after they were arrested and subjected to “torture and inhumane treatment” in 2004 during operation “Green Desert” near Iraq’s main port city of Basra.
The supreme court ruled that since the Danish troops neither took part in nor were aware of the torture, the defense ministry was not obliged to pay compensation.
An appeals court in Copenhagen had ruled in 2018 that although the Danish soldiers did not join in the torture, they failed to prevent the abuse.
It said they were aware the prisoners faced a “real risk” of being physically abused by the Iraqi security forces, and ordered the Danish state to pay 18 of them 30,000 Danish kroner ($4,300, 4,000 euros) in damages.
But the supreme court instead found “the Danish forces had no command over the Iraqi military and police forces, that the operation was Iraqi-led, and that the Danish forces’ participation in and conduct of the operation was in accordance with the mandate they were sent under.”
“The Danish forces had no concrete and current reason to believe that the Iraqi parties would be subjected to abuses,” the court said in a written statement.
It concluded therefore that “the defense ministry is not liable for assaults committed by Iraqi special forces following the military operation with the participation of Danish forces.”
Experts have said they hope the verdict will clarify what responsibility soldiers have when participating in military missions abroad.
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