Report By British Military Finds No Systematic Abuse Of Iraqi Prisoners By Its Soldie

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
New York Times
January 26, 2008
Pg. 7
By John F. Burns
LONDON — A British Army report on the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners by British soldiers in southern Iraq in the first year after the allied invasion in 2003 has concluded that there was no systematic abuse but that there were “individual instances where people behaved disgracefully.”
The report, released Friday, was quickly denounced by Western human rights organizations, lawyers representing detainees who say they were abused and families of more than 20 Iraqis said to have died while in British military custody.
The report, by Brig. Robert Aitken, the army’s chief of personnel strategy, was the outcome of a three-year investigation. Focusing on six cases involving death or injury to Iraqi prisoners, the study found that while a “tiny number” of British soldiers behaved badly, the vast majority showed “courage, loyalty and integrity.”
The report carried strong echoes of the investigations conducted by the Pentagon into abuse of Iraqi detainees during the same period at Abu Ghraib prison, near Baghdad. Although some American officers were disciplined, the reports concluded that mistreatment there was mostly the result of actions by individual soldiers and not a matter of systematic failure or responsibility at high levels of the American command.
The British report said a contributory factor in the abuse of detainees at Basra, Amara and other places in southern Iraq that were under British control was the hastiness with which the troops were prepared for deployment and the lack of sufficient troops to handle detainee operations alongside other demands.
“At one level, the paucity of planning for nation rebuilding after the invasion (a consequence, in part, of the need to give last-minute diplomacy a chance of success) was certainly a factor” in the abuse of Iraqi detainees by British troops, the report found.
The report pointed to inadequate training of British troops, saying there had been “scant mention of the treatment of civilian detainees” in the training given to more than 40,000 British soldiers involved in the invasion, who, after the American force, were the largest allied component in the invasion. It said most of the troops seemed to be unaware of a ban on practices like hooding, long periods of enforced standing against walls or in stress positions, subjection to noise and deprivation of sleep, food and drink.
Brigadier Aitken told reporters after the report’s release that not all of the banned techniques had been used in Iraq, but that some, including hooding, had. He said all British troops preparing for deployment in combat zones should be instructed on approved interrogation practices.
Referring to prohibited forms of stress, he added, “I think we should tell everyone in the army that none of the techniques should ever be used, anywhere, period.” The British military, he said, needed to “embed in people a better understanding between right and wrong.”
But his 36-page study concluded that the main problem involved excesses by individuals, not a wider army failure. “What we’re dealing with is individual instances where people behaved disgracefully,” the report concluded. “The great majority of officers and soldiers who have served in Iraq have done so to the highest standards that the army or the nation might expect of them.”
The abuse that drew the widest protests in Iraq and Britain involved Baha Mousa, a Basra hotel receptionist who died of asphyxia in 2003, 36 hours after he was detained as a suspected insurgent in the wake of the killing of a British soldier. He was found to have suffered dozens of other injuries.
Six of seven British soldiers charged in Mr. Mousa’s death were cleared by military courts, and one who pleaded guilty was sentenced to a year in prison.
In another case, four British soldiers were acquitted in the drowning of Ahmed Jabber Kareem, 16. The soldiers had been charged with killing the boy by forcing him to swim across the Shatt al Arab waterway in Basra.
After the release of the report on Friday, the government said there would be no further criminal charges in Mr. Mousa’s death, but other disciplinary measures were under review.
The report was strongly endorsed by British Army commanders, including Gen. Sir Richard Dannatt, the top army officer, who said he was confident that measures taken to eliminate abuses since those in the first year of the Iraq conflict had curbed, “as far as is humanly possible,” the risk of any recurrence.
But criticism was widespread. “Today’s report is a whitewash that will do nothing to ensure these terrible acts do not happen again in the future,” said Martyn Day, a British lawyer representing Mr. Mousa’s father. “It is yet again an example of the army investigating the army.”
Another British lawyer, Philip Shiner, whose firm was acting on behalf of Iraqi detainees who died in British military custody, said: “It was standard operating procedure to hood, stress and deprive detainees of sleep, food and water. There is the clearest evidence from the court martial into the death of Baha Mousa, and other emerging evidence, that systematic abuse by U.K. soldiers in Iraq was rife.”