UK troops handed over Iraqis for torture

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The weekend’s release by Wikileaks of the Iraq War Logs reveals, for the first time, horrendous detail of the torture and ill-treatment of Iraqis whilst in detention with the Iraqi authorities including the Iraqi National Guard (ING) and Iraqi Police Service (IPS).

A statement issued on Tuesday by Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) said: ‘The UK has known of this evidence of Iraqi authorities’ torture of Iraqis for some considerable time.

‘There are many logs from 2005 onwards that make clear that the US (and thus the UK) knew all about the activities of the ING, IPS and others, including the infamous Wolf Squad from 2005 onwards.

‘Thus, as a matter of law it had the clearest of obligations not to transfer Iraqi detainees it had custody of over to the Iraqi authorities from at least 2005 onwards.

‘This obligation arises because, first, if agents of the UK state had authority and control over Iraqis (at the point of arrest, in military vehicles or helicopters, or inside UK facilities) then it had jurisdiction for the purposes of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

‘Article 3 of the ECHR provides: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

‘This is an absolute prohibition on torture and is shored up by the provisions of the United Nations Convention Against Torture (which has as its objective to make effective the absolute prohibition), and the provisions of Geneva Convention III/IV and the international criminal court act 2001 which makes torture a war crime.

‘Of critical importance to the protection provided for civilians by these international instruments is the duty owed by all states (especially those who are signatories to the ECHR) that they must not, under any circumstances, transfer a person to a state where it is known that they face a “real risk” of torture or ill-treatment.

‘This is known as the duty of non-refoulement.

‘The jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights recognises that the Article 3 ECHR right carries with it a duty to investigate when things go wrong and there are breaches.

‘Thus it is that if the UK has transferred Iraqi detainees to the Iraqi authorities in breach of the duty of non-refoulement there is now a duty to investigate the full circumstances of all these breaches.

‘PIL is acting for Iraqi clients who complain that the UK had them in their custody and then transferred them to the Iraqi authorities. Alternatively, once the Iraqis were released the British army passed their details to the Iraqi authorities who then re-arrested them. . .

‘Accordingly, PIL will now be bringing a new judicial review arguing for a full Public Inquiry into all breaches of the duty of non-refoulement by handing over Iraqis to the Iraqi authorities.

‘Hussain Ali Abdul Khaliq Al-Saadoon was arrested by British forces in February 2008 after British forces fired at his car and wounded him.’

The PIL statement alleged: ‘Severely wounded, he was taken to the British base at Basra airport where he was held in solitary confinement and interrogated.

‘After one interrogation, he was beaten severely. He lost consciousness and woke up with a broken finger. The next thing he remembers is waking up in an Iraqi detention centre.

‘Hamid Dinar Hussein Al-Khafaji was arrested by British Forces on 21 July 2006.

‘He was taken to Shaibah Logistics Base, where, on arrival, he was forcibly stripped in front of a number of British soldiers and subjected to a medical inspection by a female medic which included the touching of his genitals.

‘For the following 29 days, he was held in solitary confinement and subjected to sleep deprivation, forced running and lengthy interrogations.

‘In one interrogation, a female interrogator made sexual advances to him. He escaped from British detention in April 2007 but that was not the end of his ordeal.

‘The British Forces passed his information to the Iraqi Army who arrested the Claimant at his home on 4 April 2008.

‘After being severely beaten by members of the Iraqi Army, he was transferred to Basra Palace, which at the time was a facility at which both the American Army and the Iraqi Army maintained a presence.

‘On arrival at Basra Palace, the Claimant was examined by American doctors. Thereafter, he was tortured by members of the Iraqi Army.

‘He was hit with rods and electrocuted after water had been thrown all over him. After 15 days, he was transferred to the Iraqi authority’s intelligence office in Basra where he was subjected to what is referred to as “kouzi.”

‘He describes it as follows: “I was made to sit on a iron rod which was parallel to the ground so that it was just under my knees.

“My hands were tied together in front of my knees so that the rod passed between the back of my knees but on top of my arms.

“They then spun me around the rod until I lost consciousness. It is similar to a piece of meat turning on a spit.

“I know of two prisoners who have died from this. One of them was called Nassar. I wished to die when it happened to me.

“It left a big mark on my leg. They hit my genitals hard and I was bleeding for 15 days.”

It should also be noted that PIL has a number of cases where the UK has had Iraqis in its custody and then transferred the men to the US.

Tuesday’s PIL statement continued: ‘Indeed, it appears that from January 2008 onwards the British army had a policy of transferring those Iraqis they arrested to the custody of the US.

‘This was in circumstances where the UK knew (a) of everything the US had done in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq and (b) that this practice of US torture and ill-treatment was continuing.

‘This is a point emphasised by the Iraq War Logs as analysed by last night’s Dispatches Programme.

‘The facts of these cases, including the transfer to the US Armed Forces, will be dealt with by a Court of Appeal Judge and a High Court Judge in a three day case in the High Court starting on 5 November (R (on the application of Ali Zaki Mousa) and the Secretary of State for Defence).

‘That case concerns whether these questions ought to be addressed by the MoD’s own Royal Military Police, who were themselves present at British military detention facilities in Iraq, or by a public inquiry.

‘Examples are:

Maytham To’ma Abullah Dahir Al-Salami

‘Mr Al-Salami was arrested jointly by British and American Forces on 18 August 2008 and transferred to the British Base at Basra Airport. He was then transferred to Camp Cropper and on to Balad Airbase which is a US facility.

PIL alleged: ‘Here he was held in solitary confinement and interrogated.

‘He describes some of what happened as follows:

“The American soldiers often threatened to put me in a coffin. This was the same as the coffin you are put in when you die, except for the fact that there was a gap for the detainee’s eyes.

“The coffin was laid on the ground and a detainee would be kept inside for three days without food or water or being allowed to go to the toilet.

“Once a detainee was placed in the coffin the lid would be nailed on. I would rather die than be subjected to this.

“Each coffin was in a separate room. I saw these coffins with my own eyes. They had blood in them, so clearly they were not cleaned for each new victim.

“On one occasion, an interrogator showed me a cell that he described as ‘The First Steps to Hell.’ The cell had a noose hanging from its ceiling and blood all over the walls and floor.

“There were pictures of dead Iraqi people all over the walls with their brains hanging out and having suffered very violent deaths.

“The interrogator said, ‘There is just one thing missing from this room: to put you in it, with pictures of your dead family all over the wall.’

“I did not have to spend any time in this cell, but I was terrified and disturbed.”

Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers said: ‘The Iraq Logs shed important new light of the flagrant illegality of the UK’s detention policy in Iraq.

‘We act in 142 cases for Iraqis all complaining of serious torture and ill-treatment whilst in the hands of UK Forces.

‘For some, their ordeal continued when handed over to the Iraqi authorities or US Forces.

‘The MoD are required to hold an Inquiry into all of these cases and that Inquiry must include a proper public focus on why the UK’s policy allowed UK Forces to transfer Iraqis to a real risk of torture and ill-treatment when handed over to others.’

Mazin Younis of the Iraqi League said on Tuesday: ‘Since 2005, the Iraqi League and other human rights organisations have been reporting numerous stories of torture and abuse by coalition forces as well as by the Iraqi security forces linked with Iranian-backed militias.

‘We in the Iraqi League had in many cases reported names of perpetrators, dates and locations of events, and even pinpointed buildings used by Police-backed militias to torture Iraqis.

‘For many years the world turned a blind eye to the daily bloodbath in Iraq when British and US troops were in effective control over the country and were training the very police force that was involved in gruesome human rights violations.

‘We believe that the revelation of Wikileaks Iraq logs will help us to establish facts and act upon them.

‘Therefore, we strongly welcome the new legal challenge launched by Public Interest Lawyers and will be happy to place our logs of events and video footage in the service of this effort.’