Posts Tagged ‘Basra’

‘Get up you ape’ – video reveals abuse of Iraqi prisoners by British soldier

July 15, 2009

• Footage shown at inquiry into detainee’s death
• UK troops in Basra ‘used illegal stress techniques’

Soldier shouts abuse at Iraqi prisoners in video shown to Baha Mousa inquiry. Source: Press Association Link to this video

A British soldier screamed at hooded Iraqi prisoners, calling them “apes”, and others made Iraqis cry out in an “orchestrated choir” and forced one detainee to dance “in the style of Michael Jackson”, the public inquiry into the death in military custody of Baha Mousa heard today.

At its opening in London, the inquiry into the death of the hotel receptionist heard fresh evidence about how he and eight other civilians seized by British troops in Basra in September 2003 were abused by interrogation methods that had been condemned over decades by successive governments.

Continued >>

Robert Fisk: A historic day for Iraq – but not in the way the British want to believe

May 2, 2009

The Independent, UK, May 1, 2009 

Brigadier Tom Beckett (right) hands over to Colonel Henry A Kievenaar III at Basra Airbase yesterday


Brigadier Tom Beckett (right) hands over to Colonel Henry A Kievenaar III at Basra Airbase yesterday

One hundred and seventy-nine dead soldiers. For what? 179,000 dead Iraqis? Or is the real figure closer to a million? We don’t know. And we don’t care. We never cared about the Iraqis. That’s why we don’t know the figure. That’s why we left Basra yesterday.

I remember going to the famous Basra air base to ask how a poor Iraqi boy, a hotel receptionist called Bahr Moussa, had died. He was kicked to death in British military custody. His father was an Iraqi policeman. I talked to him in the company of a young Muslim woman. The British public relations man at the airport was laughing. “I don’t believe this,” my Muslim companion said. “He doesn’t care.” She did. So did I. I had reported from Northern Ireland. I had heard this laughter before. Which is why yesterday’s departure should have been called the Day of Bahr Moussa. Yesterday, his country was set free from his murderer. At last.

History is a hard taskmaster. In my library, I have an original copy of General Angus Maude’s statement to the people of Baghdad – $2,000, it cost me, at a telephone auction a few days before we invaded Iraq in 2003, but it is worth every cent. “Our military operations have as their object,” Maude announced, “the defeat of the enemy… our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators.” And so it goes on. Maude, I should add, expired shortly afterwards because he declined to boil his milk in Baghdad and died of cholera.

There followed a familiar story. The British occupation force was opposed by an Iraqi resistance – “terrorists”, of course – and the British destroyed a town called Fallujah and demanded the surrender of a Shiite cleric and British intelligence in Baghdad claimed that “terrorists” were crossing the border from Syria, and Lloyd George – the Blair-Brown of his age – then stood up in the House of Commons and said that there would be “anarchy” in Iraq if British troops left. Oh dear.

Even repeating these words is deeply embarrassing. Here, for example, is a letter written by Nijris ibn Qu’ud to a British intelligence agent in 1920: “You cannot treat us like sheep… it is we Iraqi who are the brains of the Arab nation… You are given a short time to clear out of Mesopotamia. If you don’t go you will be driven out.”

So let us turn at last to T E Lawrence. Yes, Lawrence of Arabia. In The Sunday Times on 22 August 1920, he wrote of Iraq that the people of England “had been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information… Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows.” Even more presciently, Lawrence had written that the Iraqis had not risked their lives in battle to become British subjects. “Whether they are fit for independence or not remains to be tried. Merit is no justification for freedom.”

Alas not. Iraq, begging around Europe now that its oil wealth has run out, is a pitiful figure. But it is a little bit freer than it was. We have destroyed its master and our friend (a certain Saddam) and now, with our own dead clanking around our heels, we are getting out yet again. Till next time…

Robert Fisk is Middle East correspondent for The Independent newspaper.  He is the author of many books on the region, including The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East.

British soldiers ‘tortured and murdered 20 Iraqis, then covered it up with firefight claim’

April 23, 2009

By Neil Sears | Mail Online, UK, April 23, 2009

British soldiers tortured and murdered up to 20 Iraqis in cold blood, the High Court was told yesterday.

It happened after a three-hour gun battle at an Army checkpoint near Basra, a lawyer claimed.

Rabinder Singh said a group of local men were taken prisoner and transported to an Army camp where they were beaten with a rusty tent pole, punched, slammed against walls, denied water, blasted with loud music and forced to strip naked in the presence of a woman – a humiliation for Muslim men.

Ann Clwyd

Camp Abu Naji: MP Ann Clwyd at the base where abuse allegedly happened

The next day, he said, only nine were still alive – and 20 corpses were returned to their families. One was teenager Hamid Al-Sweady.

The Army claims the men all died in the initial gun battle, but Hamid’s uncle Khuder Al-Sweady and five survivors of the incident yesterday began a court battle in London to win an independent inquiry.

The clash in May 2004 came after insurgents launched a heavy attack on a checkpoint known as Danny Boy in Al Majar-al-Kabir – the town north of Basra where six military policeman had been murdered the previous year.

According to Army accounts, the soldiers were heavily outnumbered but fought back heroically, mounting a bayonet charge at one point, until the attackers were defeated. The Army says only nine Iraqis were taken away alive for questioning.

But Mr Singh said that when the shooting was over, the British troops took bloody revenge. He said: ‘It is the claimants’ case that at least some of those captured were tortured and killed by British troops between 14 and 15 May 2004, and that there has been no effective investigation into what happened to them in that 24-hour period.

‘This constitutes a substantive and procedural breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.’

He added: ‘There is a lot of evidence from soldiers at the battlefield that there were more than nine that were taken alive.

‘Many of the bodies of the Iraqis returned on 15 May 2004 were severely disfigured and some appeared to show marks of torture and mutilation.’

The Ministry of Defence says a tenmonth Royal Military Police investigation showed the 20 dead were killed in the initial battle. The corpses were taken to be identified before being returned to their families, with no evidence of torture. The hearing continues.

Iraqi PM: UK forces ‘not needed’

October 13, 2008
Al Jazeera, Oct 13, 2008

Al-Maliki criticised British troops for redeploying to the airport on the edge of Basra [AFP]

Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq’s prime minister, has said that British troops are no longer needed to maintain security in the south of the country.

“We thank them for the role they have played, but I think that their stay is not necessary for maintaining security and control,” he told The Times, a London-based newspaper, in an interview published on Monday.

British forces were based in the southern city of Basra after the US-led invasion in 2003, but they handed over responsibility for the region’s security to Iraqi forces last December.

About 4,100 British troops are still based at the airport outside Basra.

Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, was already expected to significantly cut the number of troops in the contingent over the next year.

“There might be a need for their experience in training and some technological issues, but as a fighting force, I don’t think that is necessary,” al-Maliki said.

British soldiers helped to train the Iraqi army and navy, while a special forces unit based in Baghdad has been used to attack al-Qaeda fighters and other groups.

Basra violence

The Iraqi prime minister had some harsh criticism for the British military’s decision earlier this year to move from their base at a former presidential palace in Basra to the airport on the outskirts.

“They stayed away from the confrontation, which gave the gangs and militias the chance to control the city,” he told The Times.

“The situation deteriorated so badly that corrupted youths were carrying swords and cutting the throats of women and children. The citizens of Basra called out for our help … and we moved to regain the city.”

Thousands of Iraqi security forces were sent into the southern city at the end of March to tackle armed Shia groups and criminals, with the fighting ending only after Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shia leader, agreed to a ceasefire.

However, al-Maliki said that despite the disagreements, Iraq was open to links with British businesses and other ties.

“Our relationship now is good and we are working to improve it further in other fields as we take over responsibility for security,” he said.

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