sexta-feira, 25 de janeiro de 2008

Iraqi prisoner abuse inquiry criticises army training

A report into alleged abuse of Iraqi prisoners by British troops claims soldiers were given only "scant" guidance on how to treat civilian detainees.
Troops must be taught "a better understanding between right and wrong", according to the report issued today following a two-year inquiry.

However, the author, Brigadier Robert Aitken, said there was no evidence of endemic abuse.

Lawyers acting for Iraqi civilians dismissed the findings as a "whitewash" and said there was already clear evidence that abuse had been "rife". The father of an Iraqi man who died in British custody after suffering a catalogue of injuries said he did not "accept this report for a second".

The head of the army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, insisted lessons had been learned and he was "satisfied that the standards of behaviour are now understood by all our people".
"We have endeavoured to learn from our experiences and changed some of our processes of training and the way we prepare, educate and train our soldiers for these operations.

"We pride ourselves on the highest standards and I think we are only as good as our weakest link, and when anyone lets us down indeed I am disappointed and I am angry and I know we can do better and we must do better."

The report stated that "there remain some outstanding issues" to be addressed, adding that lessons from police investigations, legal advice and trials need to be better handled "so that trends in criminal behaviour or professional shortcomings can be quickly identified and remedied".

The inquiry was commissioned after the deaths of Baha Mousa, a hotel receptionist who died in British custody with 93 separate injuries, and 16-year-old Ahmed Jabber Kareem, who drowned after allegedly being forced to swim across a river.

The report was released as the defence secretary, Des Browne, said a review had concluded that "no further criminal lines of enquiry" would be pursed in regard to Mousa's death. Browne said the army was now doing everything possible to prevent further abuses.

In a written statement to MPs, he said the report was rightly critical.

"The army has already done a great deal to improve its procedures and I am satisfied that the army is doing everything possible to ensure that its personnel do not repeat the appalling acts that were perpetrated in these cases," he wrote.

"I believe that Brigadier Aitken has demonstrated this in his report but we must not be complacent."

At the time of the deaths, the British army was struggling to control the growing insurgency in southern Iraq in 2003 and early 2004.

Six out of seven soldiers charged in relation with Mousa's death were cleared but one soldier, Corporal Donald Payne, pleaded guilty to inhumane treatment. Two soldiers were acquitted of involvement in Kareem's death.

A court martial related to the Mousa case revealed confusion over the treatment of detainees, with senior officers apparently unaware that "hooding" of prisoners and sleep deprivation were banned under the Geneva conventions and British law.

Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers, which has represented Iraqis allegedly mistreated by British forces, said: "There is the clearest evidence from the court martial into the death of Baha Mousa, and other emerging evidence, that systematic abuse by UK soldiers in Iraq was rife.

"My firm alone is acting in cases apparently involving over 30 deaths in detention including executions.

"It was standard operating procedure to hood, stress and deprive detainees of sleep, water and food. Our clients have been subjected to torture, abuse and humiliation."

Mousa's father, Daoud, insisted his son was the victim of officially sanctioned violence.

"As a senior officer in the Iraqi army, I am clear that these terrible actions could not have taken place without support from senior officers within the British Army.

"They either knew, or ought to have known, what was happening. Either way, I hold them to account for what happened to my son. I do not accept this report for a second."

Aitken said in a 2006 hearing that he believed poor preparation had led to confusion over what interrogation practices were appropriate. He said there was a lack of detailed doctrine on how to handle prisoners of war.

Amnesty International UK's campaigns director, Tim Hancock, called for a fully independent report into the death of Mousa.

"We'd like to see Mr Mousa's family fully involved in a properly independent investigation to finally lay this matter to rest," he said.

"We also still need to know why members of the armed forces used techniques like hooding, stress positions and sleep deprivation when these had long been outlawed."

Aitken said in a 2006 hearing that he believed poor preparation had led to confusion over approrpriate interrogation practices. He said there was a lack of detailed doctrine on how to handle prisoners of war.

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