Socialist Worker

Brutal reality of Iraq war exposed in torture hearing

by Judith Orr
Issue No. 2337

Allegations that British troops carried out systematic torture of civilians during the occupation of Iraq were set to be heard in court on Thursday of this week.

Human rights lawyer Phil Shiner took statements from over 1,000 Iraqis. They say that they, or a relative,

suffered physical and sexual abuse at the hands of British soldiers.

Two judges will examine the written evidence and video testimony in this public judicial review hearing.

This includes accounts of horrific beatings, ritual humiliation and threats to prisoners’ families.

One man describes being pulled around the room by his penis. Another talked of walls of sound being used to drive prisoners mad and cover the screams of other victims.

Several describe being hooded and forced to stay in stress positions in the burning sun. One tells of how a British soldier pretended to defecate on a copy of the Koran.

One Iraqi, “JST”, was placed under arrest while at home. “The soldiers started throwing me to each other as though I were a doll… As each soldier caught me they would punch me. I could hear the soldiers laughing..I was thrown to the ground.


“I felt a soldier’s boot on my head pushing my head to the ground.”

Lawyers want to use the hearing to force the government to hold a public inquiry into Britain’s use of torture in Iraq. It’s now ten years since the invasion of the country.

The British army says that claims of torture and ill treatment between 2003 and 2008 refer to

isolated instances.

Phil Shiner believes the evidence he has gathered will show that torture was systematic and must have been authorised by those at the top.

This case comes shortly after a public inquiry found that Iraqi hotel worker Baha Mousa died as a result of his treatment by his British army captors.

The inquiry said there had been “corporate failure” in Iraq. Over £8 million was paid out to 162 Iraqi victims of torture last year alone.

Shiner said that the Baha Mousa inquiry had “shone a torch into a dark corner”.

But he said that this latest case will be like “a stadium in which we will switch on the floodlights”.

“We’ve got the training materials”, he said. “We’ve got the policy documents. Violence was endemic.”

In March the al-Sweady inquiry will begin after months of delays.

It will investigate the deaths of 22 Iraqi civilians and the torture of many others after the “Battle of Danny Boy” in 2004.

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Article information

Tue 22 Jan 2013, 17:05 GMT
Issue No. 2337
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