Soldiers told to give looters 'thrashing,' Iraq abuse trial told

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The Independent Online

The court martial of three British soldiers accused of torturing and sexually abusing detained Iraqi civilians heard yesterday how their commanding officer illegally ordered that their prisoners be given a "good thrashing" to deter them from looting food from an army-run supply depot.

The court martial of three British soldiers accused of torturing and sexually abusing detained Iraqi civilians heard yesterday how their commanding officer illegally ordered that their prisoners be given a "good thrashing" to deter them from looting food from an army-run supply depot.

Regimental Sergeant Major Wilton Brown was giving evidence at the court martial at an army base in the German town of Osnabrück which is trying Cpl Daniel Kenyon, 33, and L/Cpls Mark Cooley, 25, and Darren Larkin, 30, for abusing detained civilians in Iraq in 2003.

Photographs submitted as evidence showed laughing soldiers from the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers torturing an Iraqi man tied up in a cargo net and suspended from the forks of a fork-lift truck. Others showed naked Iraqi civilians being forced to simulate oral and anal sex with each other.

The incidents took place at an army supply depot known as Camp Bread Basket outside the southern city of Basra on 15 May 2003. The camp was being run by Major Dan Taylor. Under his command, soldiers took part in an operation to round up and deter Iraqi looters who were robbing the depot daily.

RSM Brown told the court martial that before the operation he had heard Major Taylor brief troops using the word "thrashing" - an army term which means making people do hard physical work or exercise.

Defence lawyers argue that Major Taylor gave illegal orders to "thrash" detained Iraqi civilians which were in breach of the Geneva convention. They argue that the orders created a climate which encouraged the abuse of Iraqis.

Major Taylor has denied the allegations against him and has insisted his only intention had been to deter looters.

Defence lawyers claimed yesterday that he had been forced to take the blame for the offences by Lt-Col David Paterson, the commander of the 1st Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, and as a consequence he had passed on the blame to the three accused.

Earlier the court martial heard evidence from Lt-Col Paterson who denied that he had had any knowledge of Major Taylor's orders to deter looters at Camp Bread Basket.

The accused face nine charges, including assault, disgraceful conduct of an indecent kind and prejudicing military order.They deny all but one of the charges. The case continues.