The public inquiry into the death of Baha Mousa is exposing the vile brutality of the British occupation of Iraq.
Baha died after suffering 93 injuries while being tortured by British soldiers in September 2003.
The only British soldier convicted of a war crime in Iraq, former Corporal Donald Payne of the 1st Battalion The Queen’s Lancashire Regiment, last week gave evidence at the inquiry.
His revelations expose a widespread pattern of abuse that extends well beyond Baha.
Payne said that his former commanding officer (CO) held a gun to a prisoner’s head and threatened “to blow his face off”.
The inquiry also heard that prisoners were scalded with boiling water, urinated on, kicked, punched, hooded, sleep deprived and made to stand in stress positions.
Payne said the soldiers in his unit enjoyed an “open season” of punching and kicking Baha and other prisoners.
He described how he was travelling in a patrol with his CO Colonel Mendonca when someone shot a flare into the air.
An Iraqi was arrested and Mendonca interrogated him.
Payne said, “The CO then cocked his pistol and said he was going to blow his face off. He was holding the pistol above the man’s mouth… we left him there on the floor and drove off.”
Payne also alleged that the officer in command of his patrol unit—Lieutenant Craig Rodgers—had pretended to set alight an Iraqi boy who had been detained and whose head was covered by a hessian sack.
“I observed Lieutenant Rodgers place a jerry can of petrol in front of the young boy. He poured water over him and then lit a match. The young lad went hysterical,” Payne said.
Rodgers and Mendonca both deny abusing prisoners and were part of a group of six soldiers who were cleared in a court martial in 2007.
The latest evidence comes as a further 32 cases of British soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners have emerged.
One Iraqi alleges two British soldiers raped him, while others say they were stripped naked, abused and photographed.
Another Iraqi says British soldiers based the abuse they subjected him to on photographs taken at the notorious Abu
Ghraib detention centre.
Phil Shiner, the lawyer representing the Iraqis, points out, “There are hundreds of cases that are going un-investigated.”
Evidence at the inquiry, and the further cases raised, are proof that torture is not limited to one soldier or to one regiment.
It is endemic to all armies of occupation—and the governments that send them.