February 8, 2012
… Two days earlier Saddam Hussein’s statue had been toppled after American tanks rolled into the Iraqi capital; three weeks later George Bush would stand in front of a banner saying “mission accomplished”.
The helicopter crews had been told that a number of detainees were under armed guard at the side of the highway. They were to pick them up after dark and take them to a prison camp. What followed was far from routine: before the night was out, one man had died on board one of the helicopters, allegedly beaten to death by RAF personnel.
The incident was immediately shrouded in secrecy. When the Guardian heard about it and began to ask questions, the Ministry of Defence responded with an extraordinary degree of obstruction and obfuscation, evading questions not just for days but for weeks and months. The RAF’s own police examined the death in an investigation codenamed Operation Raker, but this ended with some of the most salient facts remaining deeply buried. The alleged culprits faced no charges.
… Later it became clear that this was not correct: they were being transported to an altogether more secret location. The truth about the mission raises some searching questions about the legality of some of the British forces’ operations carried out in close co-operation with US allies.