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Tortured doubts

Peter Hindrup has found some more interesting material to share with Webdiarists, this time from the Observer column in last Sunday’s Guardian:

MPs cast doubt on Iraq torture denials
Mark Townsend

Ministers and senior military officers are today challenged over discrepancies in evidence they gave to a parliamentary committee on the use of torture techniques by British troops in Iraq.

Evidence given to MPs by the former armed forces minister, Adam Ingram, and Lieutenant General Robin Brims, former commander of UK forces in Iraq, failed to address concerns over whether the Ministry of Defence gave soldiers permission to abuse detainees in Iraq.

The MoD is also accused in today's report by the joint select committee on human rights of blocking their inquiries by refusing to explain why such senior figures appeared unaware that the use of torture techniques by British soldiers may have been officially sanctioned.

Both Ingram and Brims, who won the Distinguished Service Order for his leadership in Iraq, assured the committee that interrogation techniques such as hooding and sleep deprivation, banned under the Geneva convention, would never be used and that troops received training to that effect.

Yet MPs said their claims contradicted evidence that British soldiers in Iraq routinely used such methods based on legal advice received from Brigade headquarters. The report adds that even at the start of 2008 an official army investigation had found that the prohibition on their use was still not 'clearly being articulated' to ordinary soldiers.

Chair of the committee Andrew Dismore MP said: 'We have yet to receive an explanation from the MoD for the discrepancies in evidence given to the committee by Ingram in 2004 and Lieutenant General Brims in 2006, on the use of these illegal conditioning techniques.'

Techniques such as hooding were prohibited in 1972 under the Geneva convention and are against the British army's own rules of engagement.

Evidence heard during the court martial into the death of Iraqi civilian Baha Musa in British custody in 2003 heard that soldiers were instructed by those higher up the chain of command in Basra to use 'conditioning techniques', including putting prisoners in stress positions and hooding them, to prepare detainees for tactical questioning.

Musa, a hotel receptionist, was beaten to death in Basra in September 2003. Ninety-three injuries were found on the 26-year-old's body. Government lawyers recently agreed to pay almost £3m in compensation to Musa's father and others abused in the Iraqi detention centre.

Solicitor Sapna Malik, of Leigh Day & Co, who represented Musa's father, said: 'From the evidence we have seen, it is impossible to say whether ministers definitely knew about the use of banned interrogation techniques.'

Phil Shiner, of Public Interest Lawyers, which has acted in a number of Iraq abuse cases, said: 'There is evidence that British forces in Iraq routinely used coercive interrogation techniques - including sexual humiliation - and that interrogators were made to use them.'

Dismore added that it was possible that Ingram and Brims had no idea that such techniques were being used by British troops. But the fact the committee could not get a satisfactory response was cause for concern.

He said that after the public inquiry into the death of Musa, they would again be seeking answers. The inquiry is likely to examine guidance on interrogation techniques for Britain's armed forces before they were deployed to Iraq.

Last January, a report by Brigadier Robert Aitken, director of army personnel strategy, found that the bans on interrogation techniques had not been clearly explained to all soldiers.


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Not as firma as it used to be

Just love that "war on Terra".

Not surprising

So many questions to be asked about the past five years but will we get answers or will those responsible for some of the biggest stuff-ups ever pay the price?

The Haneef enquiry is revealing much here - not about him, just some poor bloke caught up in a Kafkaesque type ordeal, but how our security servcies have become a law unto themselves. And even worse - apparently incompetent at that.

Those responsible are quietly slipping away to peaceful retirements - Bush , Blair and Howard and a thousand underlings who took their nods and winks as a reason to perpetuate their psychopathic and pschotic mayhem which always happens in times of war (on Terra). It's a green light for people who are normally restrained by law.

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