Saturday, May 28 2016

Whistle blown on failure of inquiry into Iraq abuses

Front page news in the Guardian on Friday was a story detailing a whistleblower's account on the failure of an inquiry set up to investigate allegations of abuse committed by members of the Armed Forces in Iraq, the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), becoming little more than a whitewash. The MoD has since launched an investigation into claims that the Inquiry is failing to take seriously abuses committed by British soldiers.

From the Guardian:

"Louise Thomas, an official working with the inquiry team who says she has resigned in protest at the lack of progress, spent six months working with the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), which was set up in response to a growing number of complaints from former prisoners. Many were detained at a secretive interrogation centre that the British military operated in the south-east of the country.

"Thomas, 45, a former Wren who also served as a police officer for five years, told the Guardian she had seen around 1,600 videos of interrogation sessions, a number of which showed prisoners being abused, humiliated and threatened.

"They suggested that some of the detainees were being subject to extreme sleep deprivation and beaten between interrogation sessions.

"Thomas alleges that the abuses recorded in the videos are being investigated in an ineffective manner, by investigators who sometimes show little concern for what they are seeing, and that not all relevant material has been handed over to the inquiry by the MoD.

"I saw a really dark side of the British army," Thomas said. "The videos showed really quite terrible abuses. But some of the IHAT investigators just weren't interested."

"Thomas alleges that some IHAT investigators, based at the inquiry's headquarters on a military base near Pewsey, in Wiltshire, show little interest in the contents of the videos, making comments such as "who cares, they're terrorists?" or "they're only bombers".

"They would laugh at me, because I was interested and concerned. They would say 'Here comes Miss Marple' when I came by."

"She added that she was concerned that IHAT was "little more than a whitewash", rather than a genuine investigation.

"Thomas said that on the day she resigned from IHAT she lodged a three-page document in which she raised serious concerns about the way in which the contents of the videos were being investigated, and added that she had made a number of previous written complaints.

"During her time working at IHAT, Thomas says she discovered that custody records prepared at JFIT at the same time as the videos suggest that not all the interrogation videos that were recorded have been disclosed to IHAT. She also alleged that IHAT investigators have on occasion had difficulty accessing data held on an MoD computer. In her interview with the Guardian, Thomas alleged that the videos of interrogations showed:

• Prisoners threatened with rape during interrogation.

• Prisoners being told they were to be hanged and given a detailed description of the mechanics of hanging.

• An adolescent boy being interrogated and his father being allowed briefly into the room to hug him.

• A man being interrogated while naked from the waist down.

• One prisoner having acquired a black eye in between interrogation sessions.

• Prisoners complaining of starvation.

• A prisoner aged around 50 begging for a hours to be allowed to relieve himself.

• Young guards holding exhausted prisoners upright while an interrogator screams at them: "Hold the fucker up!"

• Frequent use of "harshing", which entails several interrogators screaming at a single prisoner from a distance of a few inches."

The British military establishment has experienced sustained criticism of abuse allegations since the death of Baha Mousa, an Iraqi detainee who was killed while in British custody in Basra after being severely beaten, and cases known as the UK's 'Abu Ghraib' came to light.

Last Updated on Monday, 15 October 2012 12:51

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