General 'condemns utterly' acts of abuse

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The Independent Online

The shocking images from the court martial led to General Sir Mike Jackson making a public statement saying he utterly condemned all acts of abuse and pledging to examine what conclusions could be drawn from the case.

The shocking images from the court martial led to General Sir Mike Jackson making a public statement saying he utterly condemned all acts of abuse and pledging to examine what conclusions could be drawn from the case.

Reaction by public figures to the photographs were constrained by legal reasons because the military trial is continuing. But Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, also stressed the highly serious nature of the charges.

The photographs of mistreatment, including sexual humiliations, of Iraqi civilian prisoners by British troops also brought into focus the highly charged controversy over Britain's role in the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Sir Mike, the Chief of theGeneral Staff, said that for legal reasons he could not comment directly on the photographs. But he continued: "We condemn utterly all acts of abuse. Where there is evidence of abuse this is investigated immediately... We have always taken abuse seriously throughout. We will, of course, study the outcome of this court martial and consider whether it raises any new issues for the Army. In the meantime, we can only repeat what we have said in the past about abuse. I have every confidence in the military investigative and judicial system. Some 65,000 servicemen and women have served in Iraq since the beginning of military operations. Only a small number are alleged to be involved in incidents of this type."

Sir Menzies Campbell said: "The charges upon which these photographs are based are serious. It is right that due process should be followed in a matter of this kind, and that any proceedings should be in public."

British officials, including military officers, began to distance themselves from their American allies soon after the fall of Baghdad, warning how instances such as the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib jail fuelled the resistance.

Yesterday's pictures from Osnabruck are expected to have a similar effect at an especially volatile time in Iraq, with warnings of ferocious violence in the run-up to the elections on 30 January.

Last year, pictures published by the Daily Mirror showing the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by British soldiers proved, subsequently, to have been fakes. But they were widely seen in Iraq and the Arab world on the internet, and led to open accusations by Iraqis that British soldiers' behaviour was little better than that of the Americans.

The deployment of the Black Watch battle group to central Iraq in support of the American offensive in Fallujah brought British soldiers directly in the line of fire of the Sunni insurgency. Now they face a particularly difficult time providing security in the south of the country, where the Shias are expected to turn out in large numbers to vote and make the process a target for the Sunni resistance, which has demanded that all Iraqis boycott the polls.

A senior British officer in Basra said last night: "This couldn't have come at a worse time. The situation could not be more fraught ... Unfortunately, these photos will be used to whip up anti-British sentiments."

From round-up to alleged simulated sex acts

There are 22 photographs at the centre of the court martial proceedings in Osnabrück. The Independent publishes 12 of them today.

The picture on the right is the first of the 22, and apparently shows the round-up of Iraqis close to Camp Bread Basket in Basra in May 2003. They were accused of looting from the British-controlled camp.

The photographs are numbered sequentially, with the captions agreed by the court martial. The prosecution alleges that five soldiers took the photographs, so, although they appear to depict an unfolding situation, some are out of order.

The photographs on the front page relate to three episodes: the first three highlight the beginning of the incident; the middle row of detainees allegedly forced into simulated sex acts; and the final three of a soldier and an Iraqi.

The first row of three pictures on the front page are numbers two, nine and 10 in the sequence: they show an Iraqi apparently being forced to carry material he has looted back to the camp; an Iraqi suspended from a fork-lift truck; and another having water poured over him.

Photographs 11, 12 and 18, in the middle row, depict an alleged episode of sexual humiliation. They appear to show forced simulated anal intercourse. Photograph 13, opposite, part of the same incident, depicts a simulation of oral sex.

The final three pictures on the front page, numbers 20, 21, and 22, show an Iraqi apparently suffering abuse from a soldier. The liquid visible in the first is said to be water. Photo 21 shows him lying prone; the later one shows him apparently being punched.

Picture 19, which precedes these three, is shown on page three: the caption names Lance Corporal Darren Larkin, appearing almost in a surfing pose, with one foot on the man's leg and another on his shoulder or head. L/Cpl Larkin has admitted one allegation of assault.

Several of the images are similar to each other, and so The Independent has not published all of them today. But all of the most graphic images do appear.