UK Troops Face 90 New Claims of Abuse in Iraq

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The Guardian/UK

UK Troops Face 90 New Claims of Abuse in Iraq

A special unit of military investigators and former detectives is to look into complaints of ill-treatment

by
Mark Townsend

British soldiers check Iraqis on the outskirts of Basra in 2003. (Photograph: Anja Niedringhaus/AP)

A specialist team appointed by the government to investigate claims of abuse by British troops in Iraq
has received 90 complaints involving 128 Iraqi civilians. The files,
relating to allegations between March 2003 and July 2009, have been sent
to Geoff White, a former head of Staffordshire CID, who heads the Iraq
historic allegations team.

The unit, the creation of which was
announced in March, comprises 80 staff including military investigators
and former Scotland Yard homicide detectives. A Ministry of Defence
spokesman said: "The team is investigating all alleged cases of abuse by
UK service personnel in Iraq and will identify any action that needs to
be taken. We anticipate this should take around two years."

White
has met Phil Shiner, of Public Interest Lawyers, who will begin a case
in the high court on Friday on behalf of 142 Iraqis who claim they were
abused by British troops in the aftermath of the war to topple Saddam
Hussein.

This week's high court case, coming just one week after
the release of thousands of classified Iraq war documents on the
whistleblower website WikiLeaks, will determine whether a public inquiry
should be ordered to disclose the scale of alleged abuse of Iraqis
detained by British troops. MoD insiders hope White's inquiries will
stem demands for a public inquiry. Critics counter that only a
wide-ranging and transparent inquiry will guarantee that the true scale
of the abuse comes to light.

The high court will hear claims that
the alleged ill-treatment of Iraqis by British troops was systemic and
was not conducted at the whim of rogue soldiers. The case involves
multiple claims of ill-treatment contrary to human rights
law, including hooding or blindfolding, allegations of being forced
into prolonged stress positions in solitary confinement, and deprivation
of sleep, water and food.

One particularly lurid aspect of the
claims is the sexualised techniques allegedly used by British troops to
intimidate and humiliate Iraqi detainees. Shiner said: "Claims involve
men and women, British troops having sexual intercourse in front of
them, men and men having sexual intercourse."

The lead claimant in
the hearing is Ali Zaki Mousa, from Basra, who says he suffered months
of beatings and other abuse during 12 months in the custody of British
soldiers after being arrested in November 2006.

Mousa alleges in a
witness statement that he was asleep at his home in Khamsemil in Basra,
southern Iraq, when a door was blown in at about 2am and British troops
rushed in to arrest him.

He claims the soldiers forced him into a
stress position in which they stood on his knees and back and hit him
with rifle butts. His 11-month-old son's arm was stamped on and broken.
He says he was taken to the brigade processing facility at Basra air
station's contingency operating base, where he was initially hooded and
earmuffed, then goggled. He was then transported to another base where,
on arrival, he was goggled and earmuffed, forced to undress in public
and examined by a medic while naked.

Shiner said: "Nakedness is a
big issue for us – the enforced nakedness, keeping them naked until they
co-operate. You do not need to strip people naked to medically examine
them, it cannot be justified."

Mousa alleges he spent 36 days in
solitary confinement in a tiny freezing cell with restricted bedding,
food and water. Soldiers twice had sexual intercourse in front of him
while pornographic movies were played loudly and pornographic magazines
left in sight. Soldiers, he claims, exposed themselves, groped each
other and masturbated in front of him.

Mousa was released in November 2007 and claims he has received no explanation for his detention.

The
allegations coincide with the ongoing Baha Mousa inquiry, named after
the 26-year-old from Basra who died after suffering 93 separate injuries
while held in British custody in 2003.

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