British troops accused of torture

Laughing British soldiers tortured Iraqi detainees by beating and kicking them and pouring freezing water over their heads, a court heard on Wednesday.

    Al-Mutari was arrested in a Basra hotel in September 2003

    The accusations

    came from an Iraqi

    witness at London's High Court where families of six dead

    civilians have launched a test case against UK soldiers.

    "The soldiers appeared to be thoroughly enjoying themselves

    as the beating was accompanied by laughter," said Kifah Taha

    al-Mutari.

    He was arrested in September 2003, along with one of

    the six dead Iraqis, Baha Musa, in a raid on a hotel in Basra.

    Musa later died in custody after alleged severe beatings.

    Graphic testimony

    "I could hear him moaning through the walls," said al-Mutari,

    whose statement was read out in his presence. "I heard him say:

    'I am dying... blood... blood.' I heard nothing further."

    "I could hear him moaning through the walls.

    I heard him say:

    'I am dying... blood... blood.' I heard nothing further"

    Kifah Taha al-Mutari

    Relatives of the Iraqi civilians who died, represented by

    British lawyer Phil Shiner, are demanding that judges force Tony

    Blair's government to open independent probes.

    The case is expected to last until the end of the week.

    Families say five of the six Iraqis were shot dead after the

    war while going about their daily lives - at home, attending a

    funeral, driving home from work, visiting a judge and eating

    dinner - in the British-controlled southern region of Iraq.

    The sixth and best-known case is Musa.

    Torture allegations

    His former colleague al-Mutari gave the court a graphic

    depiction of their arrest, along with five other hotel workers.

    "They took me and the other detainees to the hotel toilets

    and started to beat us with their fists and boots. They made us

    lie on the floor and soldiers stood on our heads," he said.

    There are more than 8000 British
    soldiers in Iraq

    One

    of the detainees was made to stand inside a large oriental-style

    toilet where the flush was turned on to humiliate him, he added.

    At a military base in Basra, soldiers later beat the hooded

    detainees on their neck, chest and genitals, al-Mutari alleged.

    "We were given water by it being poured over the hood so

    that we had to lick droplets that seeped through the hood," he said.

    Abu Ghraib images

    "Freezing water was poured on to us and this was very painful."

    One soldier asked them to "dance like Michael Jackson" while

    others made them recite names of English or Dutch footballers

    "or we would be beaten severely", al-Mutari added.

    "UK armed forces operate in Iraq in accordance with relevant

    English law"

    Christopher Greenwood,
    Government lawyer

    Abuse allegations against occupying soldiers came to a head

    earlier this year with graphic images of US soldiers'

    mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib jail.

    If the High Court allows independent inquiries into

    Wednesday's cases - involving five men and one woman - that could

    pave the way for many more claims, plus possible prosecutions

    and large compensation bills.

    Britain's Ministry of Defence said it was "robustly"

    contending the Iraqis' central argument that the European

    Convention on Human Rights should apply to UK soldiers and that

    their own internal investigations were inadequate.

    British soldiers

    "UK armed forces operate in Iraq in accordance with relevant

    English law," a ministry spokesman said.

    "It is not the position of the defendant and the UK

    government that the conduct of British forces in Iraq should not

    be subject to stringent standards of control and

    accountability," added government lawyer Christopher Greenwood.

    In papers presented to the court, he said army prosecutors

    had recommended charging soldiers in Musa's case.

    Britain sent 45,000 troops to the Gulf for last year's

    invasion and still has 8100 soldiers in Iraq.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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