Fri Dec 21, 2012 10:37AM
Britain has so far paid some £14 million in compensation to Iraqis who have sued the government over illegal detention and torture by British forces since the Iraq invasion in 2003. The Ministry of Defense (MoD) said 205 Iraqis have made successful claims against the British government in the past three years and lawyers of the victims says 700 more are expected to take their cases to the courts next year. The confirmation of the payouts have led to accusations by human rights groups that say the abuse of detainees in Iraq was systematic as the interrogators and torturers acted in accordance with their training in Britain and orders issued in Iraq. The campaigners are calling for the human rights abuses under British forces’ detention in Iraq to be investigated in a public inquiry, what the MoD has been keen to avoid. The cases of abuse, which have been verified in London courts, include sexual humiliation, being forced into stress positions for long period, sleep deprivation and physical abuse including beating. Most of the cases relate to the military intelligence unit called the Joint Forward Interrogation Team (Jfit) that operated an interrogation center in Iraq for the duration of the British occupation of the country. While several video footage of the atrocities have been leaked and the International Committee of the Red Cross has complained about the mistreatment of detainees at Jfit almost immediately after its establishment, the MoD has dismissed the abuse cases as rogue exceptions within the majority of British forces in Iraq who enjoyed “the highest standards of integrity.” Lawyers of several Iraqi victims of British interrogators’ violence have described Jfit detention facility as “Britain’s Abu Ghraib”, the notorious torture center where American troops conducted human rights violations in the form of physical, psychological and sexual abuse including rape, sodomy and homicide beginning in 2004. This comes as the scale of the claims about Britain's complicity in torture including in Iraq and Afghanistan forced the government to launch the Gibson inquiry in 2011 to examine Britain's role in torture and rendition over the past ten years, only to be scrapped later under pressure from rights campaigners who seriously questioned its transparency and credibility. Experts said at the time that regardless of the conclusions of the inquiry it is highly unlikely that any British official faces any charges over torture claims, let alone being convicted. “Despite the events of the past ten years, no British citizen has ever stood in court accused of the crime of torture. In fact, the only person ever convicted of torture in a British court is a former Afghan asylum seeker - for acts he carried out in Afghanistan,” said Tobias Kelly, who is a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh. Kelly who is an expert on political violence, wrote in an opinion piece for al-Jazeera at the time that British soldiers have been convicted of “lesser” crimes such as assault or dereliction of duty, but never of torture. “At times, commentators have come close to the claim that if an act is carried out by a British citizen, it cannot - almost by definition - be torture, as the British simply do not behave that way,” he added. Kelly also said that such a trend of letting British nationals torture their victims and go scot-free has been in practice since almost 160 years ago and is not apparently going to change. AMR/HE