Socialist Worker

British soldier 'I was forced to beat up prisoners'

Issue No. 1903

"Lots of us hated what we saw. But if you spoke out you got the wrath of the whole army down on your head. You had to do two years military service. If you fell foul of the system they added time on.

"One instance really sticks in my mind. We were doing village searches, just like they are doing today in Iraq. "We came to one village, but all the adult men who should have been there had vanished. So we picked up three boys, about 15 years old, just because they were there.

"Our HQ was set up at the local school. Barbed wire was rolled out round the place to make a compound. The three boys were forced to sit in the middle of it, in agonising positions with their arms above their heads.

"We made them move to keep facing the sun. They had no food or water and sat there from seven in the morning until six at night. "If they moved we were told we had to hit them with our rifle butts. Some of us used rolled-up newspaper instead so it wouldn't be so painful for them.

"Then the Special Investigations Bureau (SIB) turned up and took the boys inside. We didn't see what happened next, and the SIB knew how to beat people where it didn't show. But we did hear what happened.

"When the interrogation finished, we were told to keep the boys awake all night. Soldiers sat with their bayonets pointed under the boys' noses so if their heads nodded they were cut.

"It went on for two days. Then we were told the boys were free to go. They tried to justify what had happened by telling us that one of the boys had given information about an arms dump, but that couldn't have been true or they wouldn't have been released.

"Our sergeant was a real nutter. He had the boys picked up again and made them clean up after the regiment. "If this sort of thing happened with an ordinary regiment, imagine what they were doing at the special detention centres.

"These practices weren't just sanctioned from above, they were positively encouraged. Just like in Iraq, they wanted to 'soften people up' so information could be forced out of people.

"It wasn't just the odd incident. There was a whole culture of abuse. I heard the Coldstream Guards had a favourite tactic of tying sandbags to suspects' testicles then forcing them to parade up and down. One mad captain had a habit of picking up any Greek Cypriots he came across and dropping them off in the nearest Turkish village. There was hostility between the Greeks and the Turks even then.

"I have no doubt that the high-ups knew what was going on. They never issued a direct order, no one could ever say they heard or saw a direct order to torture from the top brass. The instructions were always passed down the chain so it would be someone lower down who would get fingered for it.

"It makes my blood boil when I hear the Tories and the Lib Dems calling for the SIB to investigate what British soldiers have been doing in Iraq. "Ordinary soldiers hate the SIB. They can't investigate abuses because they are the people who encourage the abuses."


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Features
Thu 27 May 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1903
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