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New allegations raised of abuse by UK troops in Iraq

THE LONDON GUARDIAN | May 20, 2005

Fresh allegations about the abuse of Iraqis by British soldiers, including torture and sexual humiliation, were released on Wednesday amid new calls for an independent inquiry and the description of a recent court martial as a "farce."

Nine Iraqis have made witness statements relating to an incident at Camp Breadbasket, outside Basra, in May 2003. Their allegations go further than those made at a court martial of four soldiers from the 1st Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers in Osnabruck, Germany, in February.

The court martial was told that the Iraqis were looters who had been stealing aid from the camp. Witness statements released on Wednesday say the Iraqis were employed to help with the UN oil-for- food program and had ID cards proving they were allowed to be at the camp. They also say officers were involved in the abuse.

One of the Iraqis, Hassan Kadhim Abdul-Hussein, was shown tied to a forklift truck in a photograph taken by soldiers. Describing himself as a fisherman, he says he was at a nearby river when he was taken to the depot by British soldiers. He says his hands and feet were tied and that he was strung up after refusing to sever another Iraqi's finger with a knife.

He claims a female soldier beat one of the detained Iraqis with a military car aerial to make him pull a donkey cart. Another Iraqi says he was kicked so hard in the genitals that he cannot have children. One says a loaded gun was put to his head. They all deny that they were pilfering.

Their lawyer, Phil Shiner, of Public Interest Lawyers, said on Wednesday that the court martial process had been a "farce," a "put-up job" and produced an "Alice in Wonderland" version of events. He was prevented from producing new evidence during the court martial.

Shiner said the men's evidence had been "swept under the carpet," and that the UK attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, had been "grossly deficient in exercising his provisions, which include supervising the army prosecuting authority."

"If he doesn't give us an independent public inquiry -- one by the [London] Metropolitan police and the Crown Prosecution Service [for England and Wales] would be good enough - we will have to go through judicial review to force the issue," Shiner said.

"Here there is the clearest evidence that the military are incapable of prosecuting and investigating themselves ... Clearly here something has gone badly wrong; officers were involved and a whole lot of people were abused," he said.

Lord Goldsmith's advisers and army lawyers argued that the new evidence was not relevant to the charges faced at the court martial, defense and legal sources said on Wednesday.

The UK Ministry of Defense said that the military police special investigations branch was reviewing the case.

"If Phil Shiner has got any evidence, we want to hear about it", an official said.

A defense source said it would not be surprising if Iraqis were prepared to talk to lawyers but less keen to talk to the British military police.

The Iraqis were interviewed in and around Basra by Mazin Younis on behalf of Public Interest Lawyers.


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