The Ministry of Defence confirmed last night that it is investigating 33 cases of alleged abuse, including rape and torture of Iraqi civilians by British soldiers.
One claimant alleges that he was raped by two British soldiers, while others claim they were stripped naked, abused and photographed. Female soldiers are also alleged to have taken part in abuse.
A pre-action protocol letter was served on the Ministry of Defence last week by Phil Shiner, the lawyer representing the Iraqis, according to the Independent.
In the letter to the MoD, reported in the newspaper, Shiner said the allegations raised questions of collusion between Britain and the US over the ill-treatment of Iraqis. “Given the history of the UK’s involvement in the development of these techniques alongside the US, it is deeply concerning that there appears to be strong similarities between instances of the use of sexual humiliation,” said Shiner.
Responding to the allegations, Bill Rammell, the armed forces minister, said: “Over 120,000 British troops have served in Iraq and the vast majority have conducted themselves to the highest standards of behaviour, displaying integrity and selfless commitment. Only a tiny number of individuals have been shown to have fallen short of our high standards. Allegations of this nature are taken very seriously, however allegations must not be taken as fact and investigations must be allowed to take their course without judgments being made prematurely.”
The Guardian reported in September that the Royal Military police had launched a criminal investigation into allegations that British soldiers repeatedly raped and mutilated an 18-year-old Iraqi civilian who was working as a labourer at Camp Breadbasket in Basra, the scene of other abuse allegations.
The man who wishes to remain unnamed alleged that two soldiers raped him, subjecting him to a 15-minute ordeal, then slashed him with a knife. He was treated in hospital for cuts and the military police are understood to have secured the medical records. The victim said he was so traumatised he tried to kill himself.
Shiner also represents Baha Mousa, 26, an Iraqi who died after being taken into UK military custody. Mousa and nine other civilians were arrested at a hotel in Basra in September 2003. The father-of-two died the following day, having suffered 93 separate injuries, including fractured ribs and a broken nose.
Corporal Donald Payne became the first member of the British armed forces to be convicted of a war crime when he pleaded guilty at a court martial in September 2006 to inhumanely treating civilians. He was dismissed from the army and sentenced to one year in a civilian jail.
At the ongoing public inquiry into Mousa’s death, a former British soldier admitted for the first time that he saw Payne and Private Aaron Cooper kicking and hitting the Iraqi shortly before he died. Garry Reader told a hearing on Monday how he had tried to resuscitate Mousa.