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Torture of Iraqi prisoners: scandal spreads to include UK soldiers.

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  • Aniruddha Das
    British troops in torture scandal Mistreatment of PoWs deepens controversy in Iraq Julian Borger in Washington, Luke Harding in Baghdad, Sarah Hall and Conal
    Message 1 of 1 , May 1, 2004
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      British troops in torture scandal

      Mistreatment of PoWs deepens controversy in Iraq

      Julian Borger in Washington, Luke Harding in Baghdad, Sarah Hall and Conal
      Urqhuart in Jerusalem
      Saturday May 1, 2004
      The Guardian
      The controversy over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners deepened last night when
      photographs were released apparently showing the torture of a PoW by a
      British soldier.

      The Ministry of Defence launched an immediate investigation into the
      circumstances surrounding the photographs, in which a prisoner appears to
      be battered with rifle butts, threatened with execution and urinated on by
      his captors.

      The MoD investigation came as it was announced that the US military had
      launched an overarching investigation into interrogation procedures and the
      role of private contractors in military prisons across Iraq after
      revelations of torture and sexual abuse at an army-run jail near Baghdad.

      With the scandal gathering momentum as photographs of the abuse were
      broadcast across the Arab world, President George Bush and Tony Blair
      declared themselves appalled by the conduct of US guards at Abu Ghraib prison.

      And last night Mr Blair condemned the treatment of the prisoner by a
      British soldier in the latest photographs as "shameful".

      The army's most senior officer, chief of general staff General Sir Michael
      Jackson, said at a hastily arranged press conference: "I am aware of the
      allegations which have been made today of the abuse of prisoners by British
      soldiers in Iraq.

      "If proven, not only is such appalling conduct clearly unlawful, it also
      contravenes the British army's high standards."

      The photographs were given to the Mirror newspaper by serving soldiers from
      the Queen's Lancashire Regiment, who told the paper that such acts of
      brutality against prisoners in Iraq were widespread.

      The soldiers said the man, thought to be an alleged thief, was thrown off
      the back of a moving wagon after his eight-hour ordeal, and it is not known
      whether he lived or died.

      Earlier, scrambling to head off a backlash at the end of a terrible month
      for the American occupation of Iraq, Mr Bush said: "I shared a deep disgust
      that those prisoners were treated the way that they were treated."

      An inquiry has found that Iraqi prisoners were beaten, threatened with mock
      execution, stripped and sexually humiliated.

      According to one of the guards facing the possibility of court martial,
      Staff Sergeant Ivan "Chip" Frederick, a prisoner died under the stress of
      interrogation last November and his killing was covered up.

      The photographs have provoked outrage particularly in the Middle East,
      forcing the US military yesterday to issue an unusual public apology.

      Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, the army's top spokesman in Baghdad, said
      there was "no excuse" for the soldiers' behaviour. "I feel as appalled as
      you do at the actions of these few," he told both Iraqi and western
      reporters last night.

      A former commander of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, Major General
      Geoffrey Miller, has been flown to Iraq and given the task of overhauling
      military prisons and interrogation procedures, under a newly created office
      - deputy commander for containment operations.

      Six guards have been charged and at least two are likely to face court
      martial. Seven senior officers, including the jail's former commanding
      general, are under investigation and face disciplinary measures.

      In an email from Iraq last night US military spokeswoman Jill Morgenthaler
      said the six US soldiers facing courts-martial had not received in-depth
      training on the Geneva Conventions.

      According to military officials, the investigation will also encompass the
      role of private contractors in military prisons, after a military
      investigation found that two such firms, CACI International Inc and The
      Titan Corporation, played a central role in interrogation of prisoners and

      Neither company has returned repeated calls seeking comment, but an
      official at Titan told an American newspaper that his company supplied
      translators to the military.

      Peter Singer, an expert on the privatisation of war at the Brookings
      Institution in Washington, and the author of a book on the subject,
      Corporate Warriors, said: "My sense is that the practices at Abu Ghraib are
      an aberration. However, my sense is that the contracting-out of
      interrogation is not limited to Abu Ghraib.

      "We've pushed the boundaries of this far beyond everything we'd
      conceptualised. These contractors were originally intended for lawn-mowing
      at bases," he said.

      In the wake of the scandal, five Democratic senators this week asked
      Congressional auditors to investigate the use and activities of private
      military contractors in Iraq.

      Downing Street was yesterday unequivocal in its condemnation of the
      behaviour of the US soldiers, and said Mr Blair had been appalled by the
      pictures of prisoners being tortured and abused. The prime minister's
      official spokesman said the events at Abu Ghraib were "in direct
      contravention of all policy under which the coalition operates".

      Asked about the possible impact of the images on Arab public opinion, the
      spokesman said: "We fully accept that these things should not happen. But
      the important point is to underline that actions of this kind are in no way
      condoned by the coalition and this is in contrast with what went before.
      The regime under Saddam carried out actions like this as a matter of policy."

      Staff Sgt Frederick has claimed that the human rights abuses at the prison
      were systematic. He said he asked his superior officers for guidance
      several times and was ordered to do what he was told.

      His uncle, William Lawson, claims the sergeant, a former civilian prison
      guard, was taking the blame for the actions of private contractors who gave
      the orders.

      "They were told to go back in there and do what these contractors told them
      to. The big story is the war crimes committed by civilian contractors," Mr
      Lawson said.

      Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

      Punched, kicked, then left to die

      Iraqi detainee 'beaten and urinated upon' as accusations of widespread
      mistreatment spread to UK forces

      Matthew Taylor
      Saturday May 1, 2004
      The Guardian

      The British Army was at the centre of new torture allegations last night
      after pictures showed an Iraqi prisoner being battered with rifle butts,
      threatened with execution and urinated on by British soldiers.

      The shocking images drew immediate condemnation from the prime minister and
      led the Ministry of Defence to launch an investigation.

      The prisoner - thought to have been a thief - had his jaw broken and his
      teeth smashed during an eight-hour ordeal after being arrested near the
      southern Iraqi city of Basra.

      Bleeding and vomiting, he was eventually driven away from the army camp,
      still hooded, and thrown off the back of a moving vehicle. He was not
      charged with an offence and it is not known whether he lived or died.


      'I asked for help and warned of this but nobody would listen'

      Saturday May 1, 2004
      The Guardian
      After an investigation was launched into the alleged abuse of prisoners at
      Abu Ghraib prison, Staff Sergeant Ivan "Chip" Frederick decided to keep a
      journal to ensure his side of the story would be revealed. The journals
      seen by the Guardian begin on January 19 2004 and detail the conditions of
      the prisoners, apparent torture, and the death of one inmate after

      · Prison conditions

      "Prisoners were forced to live in damp cool cells. MI [military
      intelligence] has also instructed us to place a prisoner in an isolation
      cell with little or no clothes, no toilet or running water, no ventilation
      or window for as much as three days. MI personnel and even CID agents were
      present at these times. On or about the first week of Jan 2004 ICRC
      [International Committee of the Red Cross] was to make an appearance at the
      facility. Prisoners that were not processed were rushed out to processing
      immediately to be processed. I pulled Lt Col Phillabaum aside while he was
      in 1A. I questioned him about how MI wants things done and about how
      prisoners were being treated in 1A/B. His reply was "Don't worry about it."
      I have asked for support from BN [battalion] and the company as to dealing
      with certain prisoners' behaviour and have received nothing."

      "I had a few small rooms within the tiers ... I was often told to place
      them in these rooms that were as small as 3ft by 3ft. When I brought this
      up with the acting BN commander he stated "I don't care if he has to sleep
      standing up."

      "Prisoners were forced to sleep in areas not suitable, such as tents that
      had water in them from rain, only 2 or 3 blankets to shield them from the
      weather. A prisoner with a clearly visible mental condition was shot with
      non-lethal rounds for standing near the fence singing when a lesser means
      of force could have been used."

      "The hardsite never knew who to accept or not to accept. MI prisoners were
      left in cells for as many as 60 days before their handler would ever know
      that they were there."

      · Use of dogs

      "MI has encouraged and told us great job that they were now getting
      positive results and information. CID has been present when the military
      working dogs were used to intimidate prisoners at MI's request. [A] CID
      agent told the soldier working 1A to stress one prisoner out as much as
      possible that he wanted to talk to him the next day. On the 18th Jan 2004
      an unruly prisoner with a broken arm. The prisoner was placed in a head
      lock and choked out in the presence of CID agent team."

      · Death in custody

      "Back around Nov an OGA prisoner was brought to 1A. They stressed him out
      so bad that the man passed away. They put his body in a body bag and packed
      him in ice for approximately 24 hours in the shower in the 1B. The next day
      the medics came in and put his body on a stretcher, placed a fake IV in his
      arm and took him away. This OGA was never processed and therefore never had
      a number."

      · Health facilities

      "There was a large breakout of body lice among many prisoners. Only
      solution given was razors.

      "Prisoners that were infected with TB were housed in the same tier as other
      prisoners and ... the soldiers to be possibly infected by this airborne virus.

      · Freedom of religious expression

      "Prisoners have a mosque at the facility but are not allowed the privilege
      to go to it."

      Two emails, one written before the abuse was discovered and one after are
      also telling.

      · December 18, 2003

      Email to Mimi Frederick

      "It is very interresting (sic) to watch them interrogate these people. They
      don't usually allow others to watch them interrogate but since they like
      the way I run the prison they make an exception ...

      We have had a very high rate with our style of getting them to break. They
      usually end up breaking within hours ..."

      · January 22, 2004

      "Dear Mimi,

      I am feeling so bad at how the army has come down on me. They always said
      that shit rolls downhill and guess who is at the bottom? I have asked for
      help and warned of this and nobody would listen. I told the battalion
      commander that I didn't like the way it was going and his reply was 'Don't
      worry about it. I give you permission to do it'.

      "I just wish I could talk to someone about what is going on but I was
      ordered not to talk to anyone besides my attorney and CID. As far as
      trusting someone, DON'T."

      Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

      The photographs were given to the Mirror newspaper by soldiers who said the
      horrific treatment of prisoners was widespread and was one of the main
      reasons why coalition forces faced such fierce opposition in Iraq.

      One told the newspaper: "We are not helping ourselves out there. We are
      never going to get them on our side. We are fighting a losing war."

      Last night the chief of general staff, General Sir Michael Jackson,
      condemned the incident.

      Sir Michael said: "I am aware of the allegations which have been made today
      of the abuse of prisoners by British soldiers in Iraq. If proven, not only
      is such appalling conduct clearly unlawful, but it also contravenes the
      British Army's high standards.

      "All allegations are already under investigation. If proven, the
      perpetrators are not fit to wear the Queen's uniform. They have besmirched
      the good name of the Army and its honour.

      "Most emphatically, the British Army should not be judged by the
      reprehensible ill-discipline of a few soldiers who, by their shameful
      behaviour, have let down those tens of thousands of British soldiers who
      have worked, and still do, in difficult and dangerous conditions in the
      most commendable way, in particular in Iraq, where their sole purpose is to
      help the Iraqis to a new and better future."

      A soldier who witnessed the man's arrest and beating told the Mirror how
      the prisoner had been held during a raid on suspected thieves at Basra
      docks in southern Iraq.

      "We just caught the one guy that time. Straight away, he gets a beating - a
      couple of punches and kicks to put him down. Then he was dragged to the
      back of the vehicle." A sandbag was placed over the man's head and his
      hands tied.

      The soldier said the man had been hit with batons. "You normally try to
      leave off the face until you are in camp," he told the Mirror. "If you pull
      up with black eyes and bleeding faces, you could be in a bit of shit. So it
      is body shots, just scaring him."

      The prisoner was kept for around eight hours while the beatings were
      carried out. The photographs show him being bludgeoned with rifle butts in
      the head and groin.

      A gunbarrel is placed in the prisoner's mouth through the bag on his head,
      while others kick and stamp on him. One soldier urinates on him.

      In the final few photographs the man is barely conscious, his shirt torn,
      while vomit seeps through the sack on his head.

      The soldier, who admits he took part in the attack, said the man was
      pleading with the others to stop.

      "He could speak a few words, 'No mister, no mister.' What I did was less
      than others, but yes, I joined in." The soldier said he feared the man
      would die. "He was dying, basically, so he could not take any more, so
      basically they threw him out."

      "One of the officers came down to get him and it was like, a bit of a
      mini-bollocking, but nothing really. Then it was, 'Get rid of him, I've not
      seen him. The paperwork gets ripped."

      Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004


      America's shame

      Saturday May 1, 2004
      The Guardian

      A single image retains the power to shock, even in this multi-media,
      broadband, 24-hour rolling news age. The picture of an Iraqi prisoner held
      by US forces in Abu Ghraib prison, forced to stand on a block with
      electrical wires attached to his body, clothed in a Ku Klux Klan-style
      hood, is more than just another embarrassment for the Bush administration.
      This and the other images, of naked Iraqi prisoners being abused and
      humiliated by their US captors, awakens every dark suspicion of US
      intentions in Iraq, and is the most effective recruiting sergeant for the
      forces of resistance inside and outside Iraq. This is not just a colossal
      blunder by the US - it inaugurates a whole new level of fears and dangers,
      both in Iraq and among many Muslims throughout the world.

      The events inside Abu Ghraib prison opens a shameful episode of US
      ill-treatment of its prisoners, and has provoked worldwide condemnation.
      The handful of images - shown on US television on Thursday evening and now
      reproduced around the globe - also provide graphic evidence in much of the
      Arab and Muslim world of western sexual decadence and corruption. Since
      sodomy is often regarded as an extreme humiliation in societies such as
      Iraq, the pictures and allegations of rape will only confirm and personify
      the ill-effects of the US invasion and occupation.

      To make matters even worse, it appears this is not an isolated incident.
      The US army reported last month that 17 soldiers, including a
      brigadier-general, had been removed from duty for mistreating prisoners.
      One of the soldiers being court-martialled, Ivan Frederick, a reservist who
      is a prison officer in civilian life, told CBS's 60 Minutes programme that
      preparation was poor and supervision was weak. Soldiers trained only in
      administrative duties were ordered to become military police. Private
      contractors were hired by the Pentagon to undertake interrogation, while
      subject to no applicable military or civil laws.

      Even before the Abu Ghraib photographs were published, a reputable survey
      this week had found that 71% of Iraqis now regard coalition troops as a
      force of occupation, and 60% want the US and its allies to withdraw from
      Iraq immediately. That goodwill deficit will not improve, however
      comprehensive the actions taken by US commanders to punish the guards of
      Abu Ghraib.

      The US army has put a lethal weapon into the hands of its enemies. It is
      clutching at the weakest of straws to discount these revolting abuses by
      comparing them with those of Saddam Hussain's regime. The US and Britain
      are rightly held up to a higher standard of behaviour, since that is their
      justification for invading Iraq. The events of Abu Ghraib invoke John
      Stuart Mill's insight that civilised societies succumb to their previously
      vanquished opponents only after losing their moral strength. "If this be
      so, the sooner such a civilisation receives notice to quit the better,"
      Mill warned.

      Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004
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