Iraq detainees charge Brits with torture

An Aug. 16 AFP account, online at TruthOut, reports the claims of former Iraqi prisoners claim on that evening’s BBC Newsnight that British troops abused and humiliated them in the aftermath of the US-led invasion in March 2003. Two brothers, Marhab and As’ad Zaaj-al-Saghir, said they were beaten with sticks and denied water and sleep after being arrested in Basra and taken to an internment camp. One said a soldier urinated on his head. Newsnight said the accounts were similar to numerous other claims made in a confidential report by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

“They lowered me down… while I was tied up, threw me on the floor and hit me with a stick,” Marhab Zaaj-al-Saghir told the program. “You couldn’t draw breath afterwards and I lost consciousness.”

“I thought they would throw water over us but he got his penis out and urinated on my head,” said Zaaj-al-Saghir. “If I’d had a weapon I’d have killed myself.”

Form issued by the US Army showing the brothers were eventually released from a camp in Umm Qasr, southern Iraq, without charge.

Said human rights lawyer Phil Shiner, who is acting for dozens of Iraqis who have made claims against the British Army: “I think there is fairly clear evidence that there is a policy within the British Army in Iraq of systematic abuse and torture.”

The Ministry of Defence told the BBC it had investigated 177 complaints against British troops, most involving shootings when the Army said it returned fire after being attacked. The Ministry claimed it has a “robust system for investigating incidents involving the death, injury or alleged ill-treatment of civilians on operations.” The two brothers have apparently not brought a formal complaint.

Seven soldiers were charged last month over the death of an Iraqi hotel receptionist who died in British custody in Basra six months after the invasion.

See our last posts on the Iraq war and ongoing torture scandal.