Inquiry into British abuse of Iraqi
prisoners faces fresh allegations
Ministry of Defence whistleblower claims Royal Military police remained on investigation after they were due to be removed.
A Ministry of Defence whistleblower has made fresh allegations against an investigation established to examine claims that British troops abused large numbers of prisoners in Iraq, saying that Royal Military police remained involved in the investigation long after it had been agreed they would be removed.
The MoD said members of the RMP would be removed from the Iraq historic allegations team after the court of appeal said last November that their presence "substantially compromised" the inquiry. Members of the same unit had been involved in the detention of prisoners during the six-year occupation.
Louise Thomas, a former wren and police officer who resigned from IHAT, describing it as a whitewash, said six RMP personnel remained with the investigation until May.
"I was really surprised when I started work at IHAT in February, and they were still there – I was under the impression that IHAT had agreed to sever all links with the RMP," Thomas said.
There was no immediate comment from the MoD.
The was established after 149 Iraqi males complained that they had been tortured while in British military custody.
The MoD has conceded that this may have happened, and that there needs to be an inquiry that is both independent and effective to meet the government's obligations against torture, under the European convention on human rights.
The MoD has said IHAT meets those standards, but lawyers representing the former prisoners have disagreed, saying there needs to be a public inquiry into the UK's detention and interrogation practices in south-east Iraq after the 2003 invasion: a large-scale version of the inquiry into the death of Baha Mousa. Thomas, 45, has raised made a number of complaints about IHAT, where she spent six months as part of a team assessing video recordings of interrogations and taking statements from guards at a secretive British military interrogation centre called the joint forward interrogation team, or JFIT.
"I saw a really dark side of the British army," Thomas said. "The videos showed really quite terrible abuses. But some of the IHAT investigators just weren't interested."
The MoD has said it will investigate Thomas's claims that abuses recorded in the videos were being investigated in an ineffective manner, by investigators who sometimes showed little concern for what they were seeing. "We are confident in the IHAT's abilities and following the outcome of their investigations, action will be considered against individuals where appropriate."
The MoD denied Thomas's accusation that not all the videos had been handed over. "The MoD has co-operated fully, including the provision of all known evidence," a spokesman said.
In November 2010, JFIT was described in the high court by lawyers representing the prisoners as "Britain's Abu Ghraib".
A small number of videos depicting interrogations have been made public and have appeared on the Guardian's website. One shows an exhausted prisoner being threatened with death, intimidated, subjected to sensory deprivation and complaining of starvation before being ordered to place blackened goggles over his eyes and led away by his thumbs. Another shows an interrogator telling a prisoner who is complaining of being in pain: "Good, I'm fucking glad. I hope you die. I hope your kids die." This prisoner is led away by his thumbs while blindfolded, for what the interrogator calls "a quick run".
A former soldier who served as a guard at JFIT has confirmed to the Guardian that he and others were ordered to take hold of blindfolded prisoners by their thumbs in between interrogation sessions, then drag them around assault courses, where they could not be filmed. He said the prisoners were often beaten during these runs, before being returned for interrogation in front of a video camera.
This allegation has already been made by many of the former prisoners who have lodged complaints.
Thomas alleged that among the 1,600 videos of interrogations now in the possession of IHAT were some that showed:
• Prisoners threatened with rape during interrogation.
• Prisoners being told they were to be hanged and given a detailed description of the mechanics of hanging.
• An adolescent boy being interrogated and his father being allowed briefly into the room to hug him.
• A man being interrogated while naked from the waist down.
• Young guards holding exhausted prisoners upright while an interrogator screams at them: "Hold the fucker up!"
• Frequent use of "harshing", which entails several interrogators screaming at a single prisoner from a distance of a few inches.
An MoD spokesman said: "All of these allegations of abuse are known to the MoD and IHAT, which is why the independent IHAT is already investigating them."
Source: Inquiry into British abuse of Iraqi prisoners faces fresh allegations, Ian Cobain, The Guardian, 12 October 2012
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