Iraqi nationals have called for a probe into alleged acts of brutality by the UK military during the Iraq war. Reports of beatings, sleep deprivation and sexual humiliation, some involving women and children, were turned over to the UK High Court.
A group of lawyers representing 192 Iraqi citizens handed the 82-page report to the UK High Court on Tuesday, and asked for an independent inquiry into detention practices between 2003 and 2008. During the next three days of the hearing, the Court will rule whether the abuses were systematic and whether the UK Ministry of Defense (MOD) is impartial enough to head an investigation.
In addition to the 192 Iraqi nationals currently being represented in the High Court, another 800 are taking legal action against the UK military.
The MOD currently opposes an independent probe into the abuse reports, and argues that a wide-ranging public inquiry would be “premature and disproportionate.” The MOD created an official body, the Iraq Historical Allegations Team (IHAT), to examine the cases.
The lawyers representing the Iraqis have insisted that the investigation must be carried out by an independent body because the IHAT is incapable of a balanced inquiry.
"Enough is enough. There must be a public inquiry in relation to the credible and prima facie cases of human rights violations perpetrated by the British military in Iraq from 2003 to 2009," QC Michael Fordham told reporters outside London’s High Court.
The cases of torture documented by the report handed over to the High Court describe beatings, hooding, sleep deprivation and the sexual humiliation of detainees. The report also claimed that women, the elderly and some children were among those killed in attacks on civilians.
Lawyers said that the abuse included unlawful detention, death in custody as well as threats of rape against Iraqis and their wives.
Phil Shiner, one of the lawyers representing the Iraqis, told reporters outside the High Court that there were "hundreds and hundreds" of Iraqis with "tens of thousands" of allegations of mistreatment.
"Some of the cases are truly shocking," he said. "A 62-year-old grandmother who is led away alive, she is seen by her husband and her son alive, then found a few hours later in a British body bag very much dead, with signs of torture.”
Another case documented in the report tells of a tribal chief who was “utterly humiliated” in front of his family when soldiers broke into his home, arrested him, and then forced him to expose his genitals to his family, including the women.
"The military can't investigate themselves, we need an independent judicial process here in London,” Shiner said.
MOD lawyers have assured the High Court that comprehensive steps are being taken to ensure that lessons are learned from the mistakes made in Iraq.
However, the MOD seems intent on glossing over its past failings: in December, the ministry paid over $22 million (£14 million) in compensation to hundreds of Iraqi citizens who claimed to have been illegally detained and abused by British forces posted in the country.
"In particular… a significant amount of work has already been done to ensure that MOD policies and training on tactical questioning and interrogation are lawful and fit for purpose," MOD lawyers said.
Most of the 227 who received compensation were men who claimed to have been tortured in custody. The allegations included beatings, sleep deprivation and sexual humiliation.