Britain’s dirty war leaks out

Britain’s dirty war in Iraq: war crimes, torture, renditions – the evidence mounts

A list of alleged war crimes committed by British military and Intelligence personnel, involving torture, abuse of legal process, rendition and illegal detention, is being compiled. What emerges is evidence of a dirty war, the story of which is still to be fully told. Below, we summarise just a few of the cases under review and that may lead to the prosecution of politicians and military (time for Garzon to step forward?).

1. Sami al-Saadi and Abdul Hakim Belhadj were Libyan dissidents under Muammar Gaddafi’s regime who allege UK involvement in their kidnap and rendition to Libya, where they were detained and tortured. Saadi’s wife and four children were also rendered and imprisoned, and Belhadj’s wife was abducted along with Balhadj. Civil proceedings were commenced in 2011, and proceedings against the former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and the former director of counter-terrorism at MI6, Sir Mark Allen were issued in the High Court in June 2012. An update in current proceedings is here.

2. In June 2012, The Mail on Sunday reported it could reveal claims of abuse carried out by British soldiers at a secret network of illegal prisons in the Iraqi desert. One civilian victim is alleged to have died after being assaulted on an RAF helicopter, while others were hooded, stripped and beaten at illegal ‘black ops jails’. The newspaper reported that the whereabouts of 64 Iraqi men who were taken to another ‘black site prison’ remained unknown. Lieutenant Colonel Nicholas Mercer, the chief British Army lawyer in Iraq during the 2003 invasion, is reported to have stated that “These are alleged war crimes, but what Britain did may never be disclosed.”

3. The Iraq Historic Allegations Team (and Ali Zaka Mousa) is investigating alleged instances of prisoner abuse by British Service Personnel, and deaths in custody in Iraq. These allegations involve over 140 Iraqi civilians. Louise Thomas, an official working who was with the inquiry team but who says she resigned in protest at the lack of progress, spent six months with the inquiry and had seen 1,600 videos of interrogation sessions. The alleged abuse took place at a joint services interrogation centre under the Joint Forces Interrogation Team, which operated at three locations in the Basra area between March 2003 and December 2008. Abuse included prisoners threatened with rape or told they would be hanged and given a detailed description of the mechanics of hanging. IHAT is reported to have now identified more than 100 serving and former members of the armed forces who they want to interview relating to the alleged torture and abuse of Iraqi civilians. That number is expected to increase significantly.

4. The Guardian reported that Mr Serdar Mohammed is seeking compensation after allegedly being mistreated whilst detained by British troops in Afghanistan. He was subsequently handed over to the Afghan intelligence services who, he claims, tortured him. Mr Mohammed’s lawyers are currently seeking a judicial review of the decision to transfer him.

5. A & A v Security Services & Others: the claimants’ lawyers, Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, describe this case as involving “claims against the Security Services, the Foreign Office and the Home Office in relation to allegations of complicity in torture inflicted on British nationals detained in the custody of the Inter Services Intelligence Agency in Pakistan.”

6. Yanus Rahmatullah was captured by UK forces in Iraq in February 2004 and handed to US forces who have held him at Bagram Airbase. On 14 December 2011, the Court of Appeal ordered the Government to ask the US to return him to UK custody, finding that the UK remained responsible for Mr Rahmatullah’s well-being. A request was made but the US has refused to return him. A further appeal found that habeas corpus could not apply.

7. Noor Khan v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, case brought by Leigh Day & Co, Solicitors. Noor Khan’s father was killed in a drone strike in North West Pakistan. The case alleges that British intelligence was unlawfully provided by GCHQ and the Menwith Hill eavesdropping facilities to US agencies in the direction of drone attacks and “targetted killings”.

8. The Al Sweady Inquiry is examining allegations that Iraqi nationals were detained after a firefight with British soldiers in Iraq in 2004 and unlawfully killed at a British camp, and that others had been mistreated in that camp and later at a detention facility. Interrogations by British military personnel allegedly involved young men, some seriously injured with gunshot wounds, being stripped naked, forced to stand, not given appropriate medical treatment, and threatened with violence whilst still under the shock of capture in the middle of the night. The al-Sweady inquiry has identified more than 500 troops who will have to give evidence. Members of the SAS, the SBS, and interrogators from a unit called the Joint Support Group are also likely to be questioned.

Land Rovers from 16 Air Assault Brigade prepar...
Land Rovers from 16 Air Assault Brigade preparing for an evening raid near Basra, Iraq. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

9. Fourteen claims of torture against the British Army include accounts of a team of military and MI5 interrogators who allegedly authorised the physical and sexual abuse of Iraqi detainees at a unit called the Joint Forward Intelligence Team (JFIT), based at the Shaibah Logistics Base, between 2004 and 2007. Nearly all the men say they were beaten, denied sleep and dragged around the prison compound before facing multiple interrogations. In one account the interrogators are accused of creating an image superimposing a suspect’s head on the body of a man who is sexually abusing a child, and then threatening to disseminate the image throughout Basra. In another, a detainee, held in solitary confinement for 36 days, alleged interrogators threatened to rape his wife and kill his children. Many of the detainees’ witness statements appear to corroborate each other by referring to named soldiers responsible. According to the Iraqis’ solicitors, the JFIT interrogators were a mix of military, MI5 and civilian staff who took their orders from London. Allegations were also made against troops in the wake of the killing of Baha Mousa, an Basra Iraqi hotel worker who died in 2003 while in British custody, and the Battle of Danny Boy in 2004, where it is alleged that British soldiers tortured and murdered Iraqi gunmen after a firefight.

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