Socialist Worker

Our government lied about torture in Iraq

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2195

The media has largely ignored evidence of British military torture used in Iraq, despite 47 claims of abuse against the government going before the courts.

Documents produced at the inquiry into the killing of Baha Mousa, an Iraqi hotel worker beaten to dealth while held by British troops in 2003, shows it was sanctioned.

Evidence presented there reveals prisoners were kept hooded for long periods in intense heat and deprived of sleep by intelligence officers.

The intelligence unit—the Joint Forward Interrogation Team (JFIT)—used “coercive techniques” and was not answerable to military commanders in Iraq.

The inquiry reveals the reality of the occupation—prisoners were scalded with boiling water, urinated on, kicked, punched, hooded, sleep deprived and made to stand in stress positions.

These types of interrogation techniques were banned by the government in 1972 after a scandal over the use of torture in Northern Ireland. The army has consistently claimed that prisoner abuse was down to “rogue soldiers”.

In his statement Colonel Christopher Vernon said he raised concerns after seeing 30-40 prisoners in a kneeling position with sacks over their heads.

He said those in charge told him they were from the Defence and Intelligence Security Centre in Bedfordshire—the British Army’s intelligence HQ.

He was told “they were an independent unit” reporting directly to London, and that hooding was “accepted practice” and would continue.

Vernon was asked if there was “some sort of feeling generally in the army that the intelligence people were slightly on their own and running their own show.”

He replied, “I think you could say that.”

In another statement an army legal adviser in Iraq revealed that a senior military intelligence officer told him, “there was a legitimate reason for it [torture], they had always done it and they would like to continue to do it.


“My recollection is that he said that they—those at JFIT—had been trained to hood.”

In an email disclosed by the inquiry Major Gavin Davies, a member of the army’s legal team, wrote in March 2003, “I have just spoken to S002 [code for an army intelligence officer in Iraq] about the subject of placing in hoods in the British facility.”

He says he was told hooding would only be used until “high value” prisoners can be interviewed, and that the length of hooding can last from an hour to 24 hours.

The only other restriction “is that they may not sleep”.

The military denies that it trained soldiers to use hoods.

But an email from a military legal officer at the Permanent Joint Headquarters in Northwood, says, “I have heard that Chicksands have denied teaching hooding and suggested that there may be confusion in the minds of those who have completed the conduct after capture course.

“I find this implausible. The people I have spoken to are not stupid. It seems to me more likely that hooding is taught but for actions immediately on capture or for prisoner handling.”

Documents emerging from the Baha Mousa inquiry are the first to prove what was obvious—the British carried out torture in Iraq, not as rogue units but as policy.

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Tue 30 Mar 2010, 18:50 BST
Issue No. 2195
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