The report by Brigadier Aitken on British Army abuses of Iraqi civilians is ‘a complete red herring and a whitewash’, said lawyers Phil Shiner and Martyn Day yesterday.
Shiner is from Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), who say they are acting in cases involving scores of Iraqis tortured, killed or executed by UK forces in military facilities in the UK’s occupation of Iraq.
The Aitken report released yesterday finds that:
• ‘The number of allegations of abuse in Iraq has been “tiny”.’
• ‘All but a handful of our people conducted ourselves to the highest standards of behaviour’.
• ‘There is no clear evidence that the faults needing rectification are endemic’.
In response, Phil Shiner of PIL said: ‘The Aitken inquiry lacks any independence or rigour, is a complete red herring and represents a whitewash.
‘There is the clearest evidence from the court martial into the death of Baha Mousa, and other emerging evidence, that systematic abuse by UK soldiers in Iraq was rife.
‘My firm alone is acting in cases apparently involving over 30 deaths in detention including executions.
‘It was Standard Operating Procedure to hood, stress and deprive detainees of sleep, water and food.
‘Our clients have been subjected to torture, abuse and humiliation.’
The Aitken report was commissioned following allegations of abuse, including the case of Baha Mousa, 26, who died in custody with 93 injuries in 2003.
No one has been prosecuted for his death.
Defence Secretary Des Browne said in a written statement yesterday that ‘no further criminal lines of inquiry could be pursued’ into Baha Mousa’s death ‘on the basis of the existing evidence’.
Leigh Day and Co, who represent the family of Baha Mousa, as well as the others involved in that incident and the Camp Breadbasket in Basra incident in damages claims against the Ministry of Defence, also labelled the Aitken Report as being a whitewash.
Colonel Mousa, father of Baha Mousa, said: ‘As a senior officer in the Iraqi Army I am clear that these terrible actions could not have taken place without support from senior officers within the British Army.
‘They either knew or ought to have known what was happening. Either way I hold them to account for what happened to my son. I do not accept this report for a second.’
Martyn Day, Senior Partner, added: ‘The hooding of prisoners, putting them into the stress position, depriving them of food and water, were all methods that seem to us to have been used in a widespread way by the Army.’