£14m MoD payouts to Iraq torture victims
Categories: Latest News
Friday December 21 2012
The Guardian’s front page story today covers the £14 million payout by the Ministry of Defence to Iraqis alleging illegal detention and torture by UK forces.
The paper claims that almost one thousand cases exist with the MoD payout covering 205 successful claims so far. This year alone, 162 Iraqis were paid a total of £8.3million, and “lawyers representing former prisoners of the British military say that more than 700 further individuals are likely to make claims next year.”
Most of those compensated are male civilians who claimed they were tortured and mistreated in various ways including beatings, sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation and being forced into stress positions for prolonged periods.
According to the paper, many of the complaints relate to the actions of a “shadowy military intelligence unit called the Joint Forward Interrogation Team (JFIT) which operated an interrogation centre throughout the five-year occupation.”
Hundreds of films shot by interrogators show UK forces “threatening and abusing men who can be seen to be bruised, disoriented, complaining of starvation and sleep deprivation and, in some cases, too exhausted to stand unaided”. One former soldier told the Guardian how prisoners were dragged around an assault course and beaten. Lawyers representing the former JFIT prisoners have described the interrogation centre as “Britain’s Abu Ghraib”.
An MoD spokesperson responding to the compensation claims said that the ‘vast majority’ of British soldiers in Iraq “have conducted themselves with the highest standards of integrity and professionalism”. He added that all allegations of misconduct would be thoroughly investigated to bring those responsible to justice.
The article notes the High Court hearing next month of a judicial review into “the MoD’s refusal to hold a public inquiry into the abuses”. Campaigners and lawyers for the victims maintain that the government is “obliged to hold an inquiry to meet its obligations under the European convention on human rights”.
The MoD denies that a public inquiry is necessary given the establishment of the Iraq Historical Allegations Team (IHAT) to look into the allegations. The IHAT has however, been dogged by claims of ineptitude with panel member Louise Thomas resigning over its activity resembling “little more than a whitewash”.
The allegations of torture, mistreatment and misconduct by British soldiers serving abroad in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan has received much attention in recent years with ongoing claims against the Government. Libyan dissident Sami al-Saadi last week agreed a £2.2 million compensation package after filing a lawsuit against the UK Government over claims of complicity in his rendition and torture. An investigation was also called for this month to investigate the alleged killing by UK soldiers of four teenagers in a village in Afghanistan.
A public inquiry into alleged abuses committed by British soldiers abroad would go some way to dispel the notion presented by the former chief legal advisor to the British Armed Forces in Iraq, Nicholas Mercer, that there exists ‘a cultural resistance to human rights’ in the British Army.