Judges described ‘A Very British Killing’, his investigation into the killing of hotel receptionist Baha Mousa by British Army soldiers in Iraq, as a "chilling, gripping book" which "unearths damning evidence of what happened" to Mousa in 2003.
The judges said that Professor Williams:
…had the courage to take on a case that has already received so much press coverage and to turn it into something far bigger and more shocking than we understood it to be. He dissects and analyses with a clear-eyed determination to unpick the lies from the truths of this case, yet, for all its forensic detail, the book grips us emotionally, and has as keen a sense of storytelling as a horror story or courtroom drama. Ultimately, the greatest achievement of this incendiary, eloquent and angry book is that it humanises Mousa beyond the iconic and infamous figure he has become in his death. It was written in the spirit of Orwell's journalism".
The Orwell book prize is intended to discover the work which comes closest to George Orwell's ambition "to make political writing into an art". Writing in The Guardian earlier this month, Professor Williams wondered what Orwell himself "would have thought" about the Mousa case:
He wrote once that: 'It seems to me nonsense, in a period like our own, to think that one can avoid writing of such subjects.' His main target then was the evil of totalitarianism. But I would like to think his underlying aim was to challenge indifference to the suffering of others. That for me was the real devil which emerged amid the detail of my book."
Former winners of the Orwell prize for political writing include Francis Wheen, Fergal Keane and Tom Bingham.