UK’s “Abu Ghraib” in dock over ‘brutal mistreatment’ of Iraqi prisoners

Saturday, November 6, 2010

LONDON - Evidence of the alleged brutal mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners at a secret British military interrogation center, known as “the UK’s Abu Ghraib”, has emerged during high court proceedings brought by more than 200 former inmates on Friday.

According to the Guardian, the court was told there was evidence that detainees were starved, deprived of sleep, subjected to sensory deprivation and threatened with execution at the shadowy facilities near Basra operated by the Joint Forces Interrogation Team, or JFIT.

It was also alleged that JFIT’s prisoners were beaten, forced to kneel in stressful positions for up to 30 hours at a time, and that some were subjected to electric shocks. Some of the prisoners say that they were subject to sexual humiliation by women soldiers, while others allege that they were held for days in cells as small as one metre square.

The hearing marked the start of a judicial review intended to force the establishment of an inquiry.

Michael Fordham QC, for the former inmates, said the question needed to be asked: “Is this Britain’s Abu Ghraib?” and added: It needs to get at the truth of what happened in all these cases. It needs to deal with the systemic issues that arise out of them, and it needs to deal with the lessons to be learned.”

Meanwhile, lawyers representing the former JFIT inmates have demanded a public inquiry to establish the extent of the mistreatment, and to discover at which point ultimate responsibility lies, along the chain of military command and political oversight.

However, the proposal for a public inquiry has been opposed by the Ministry of Defence.

In a statement to the Commons on Monday, Nick Harvey, the Liberal Democrat armed forces minister, said that the MoD should be allowed to investigate the matter itself, adding: “A costly public inquiry would be unable to investigate individual criminal behaviour or impose punishments. Any such inquiry would arguably therefore not be in the best interests of the individual complainants who have raised these allegations.” (ANI)

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