Leadership failings blamed for abuse of Iraqi prisoners

Neglect of duty by senior military officers led to abuse of captive Iraqi civilians and the use of interrogation techniques forbidden by the British Army for more than 30 years, a court martial was told yesterday.

Colonel Jorge Mendonca, the former commanding officer of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment, and Major Michael Peebles and Warrant Officer Mark Davies, of the Intelligence Corps, were accused of failing to have a checking system which could have prevented assaults which left one prisoner, Baha Mousa, dead and others seriously injured.

MajPeebles, 35, WO Davies, 37, and ColMendonca, 42, each face a charge of negligently performing their duties.

The Iraqis had been arrested on suspicion of involvement with insurgents, and soon after the deaths of six British Royal Military Policemen in a gun battle at Majar al-Kabir in Maysan province and Captain Dai Jones, an officer in the First Battalion Queen's Lancashire Regiment, who was killed by a bomb attack near Basra.

Maj Peebles had referred to the prisoners as "terrorist suspects", the court was told.

Julian Bevan QC, for the prosecution, said: "This failure to have a checking system in place has to be seen in light of the fact that the soldiers, who are in charge of persons suspected of being a threat to the coalition forces, could be tempted to behave out of line, abuse them and ill-treat them."

Mr Bevan said, bearing in mind the recent deaths of the British servicemen, the officers in charge should have been even more alert to the possibility of ill-treatment.

Left unchecked and unsupervised, the soldiers kept the detainees hooded, deprived of sleep and in the "stress position" (standing knees bent, arms outstretched) for a 36-hour period, the court was told.

This contravened the prisoners' rights within law to be treated humanely. The technique had been forbidden since a 1972 government investigation into practices in Northern Ireland. In addition the British military's intelligence specialists have also said the method was counter-productive in gaining information, Mr Bevan said.

Furthermore, in contravention of a standing order in the Queen's Lancashire Regiment, the detainees were held at a temporary holding facility for more than 14 hours, the court heard.

The nine arrested Iraqis were taken to the holding base for tactical questioning, under Maj Peebles' command, in order to find out whether they were a risk to the occupation forces.

Addressing the failure to move them on to other facilities, Mr Bevan said: "The consequences were that these detainees were held, cuffed, hooded, deprived of sleep and, for the most part, held in the stress position in extreme heat and increasingly unsanitary conditions for over 36 hours until the death of Baha Mousa. The result was that Corporal Payne and the guards were left to act as they wished."

Cpl Donald Payne, 35, has admitted to the inhuman treatment of the Iraqis, but denies charges of manslaughter and perverting the course of justice. L/Cpl Wayne Crowcroft, 22, and Pte Darren Fallon, 23, are have denied a charge of inhuman treatment. Sgt Kelvin Stacey, 29, is accused of assault occasioning actual bodily harm with an alternative count of common assault.

The case continues.

News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform