UK officer faces war crimes probe

A senior British army officer hailed for his leadership during the US-led war on Iraq is being investigated over alleged war crimes, said Britain's defence ministry on Wednesday.

    Iraqi POWs have accused British
    and

    US troops of torture

    Lieutenant Colonel Tim Collins, who headed the 600-strong Royal Irish regiment in southern Iraq, has been accused of breaching the Geneva Conventions through the ill-treatment of prisoners of war.

    A ministry official would only confirm that an investigation was being conducted. He would not give further details, saying it would compromise the allegations.

    The ministry would not name the officer but a British defence source told Reuters it was Collins who had returned from Iraq.

    The defence ministry refused to reveal the origins of the charges. But newspapers reported he was being accused of punching, kicking and threatening Iraqi prisoners of war. He also allegedly pistol-whipped one Iraqi civic leader.

    The Sun newspaper reported that Collins denied the allegations.

    Collins was praised widely for his speech he made on the eve of battle. A copy of his speech was reportedly tacked to the wall of US President George W. Bush’s office while Britain’s heir-to-throne Prince Charles wrote to him to praise his “stirring, civilised and humane” words.

    Last week human rights watchdog Amnesty International said it had received about 20 complaints from Iraqi civilians and soldiers accusing British and American troops of torture.

    The group said it was still collecting witness statements and had not corroborated reports of beatings and electric shock treatment.


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