“I have never heard anything like that sound ever before in my life. It shocked me and filled me with such terror.”
That was the testimony of Atiyah Sayid Abdelreza, a labourer from Majar al-Kabir in Iraq, who was detained at a British army base by troops in May 2004.
He and four workmates say they overheard the British troops torture and execute as many as 20 Iraqis taken prisoner after an alleged gun battle just south of Amara, on the road between Baghdad and Basra.
Now a group of lawyers has taken up their case and is demanding a public inquiry into the evidence that British troops were involved in an atrocity.
Martyn Day, one of the lawyers, showed images of corpses from the gun battle at a press conference in London last week.
“The nature of a number of the injuries of the Iraqis would seem to us to be highly unusual in a battlefield,” he said.
He noted that “many of the Iraqis sustained single gunshots to the head and from seemingly at close quarter”, and asked, “How did two of them end with their eyes gouged out? How did one have his penis cut off?”
Phil Shiner, another of the lawyers, added that evidence of an atrocity at Amara had been swept under the carpet.
He said, “There is the clearest evidence available of systematic abuse and systematic failings at the very highest levels of politicians, the civil service and the military.”
If the claims turn out to be true, it will hardly be a surprise.
The history of British imperialism is full of incidents where British soldiers have gone on a murderous rampage against the peoples they have been sent to subjugate.
Despite this bloody history, the media and politicians routinely present British troops as some kind of “civilising” force, while depicting the colonised as “violent savages” who mutilate bodies and have no concept of justice or law.