British colonel blew whistle on abuse of Iraqi prisoners

A senior British Army officer was so concerned about prisoners being hooded and forced to kneel in the sun days after the invasion of Iraq that he went outside the chain of command to complain, a public inquiry heard yesterday.

The former colonel, who is now retired from the Army and can only be identified as S009, was commanding officer of the Queen's Dragoon Guards at the time of the invasion in March 2003.

He was given the job of building and running a theatre internment facility (TIF) in Umm Qasr, southern Iraq, to hold prisoners of war.

Within the TIF was a small, self-contained unit for interrogating prisoners of "high-intelligence value" operated by a joint forces intelligence team (JFIT).

The former colonel said he saw up to 20 prisoners in the JFIT area under guard kneeling on the ground in the sun, hooded with plastic sandbags and with their hands tied behind them.

He went outside his chain of command to alert UK military headquarters and the International Committee of the Red Cross about the "morally objectionable" and "unlawful" treatment.

He said a senior political adviser visited the camp where the alleged abuse took place, and an order came down that hooding of detainees was to stop.

But the inquiry into the death of Iraqi hotel worker Baha Mousa in British custody in 2003 has heard that hooding and other banned prisoner-handling methods continued to be used by UK troops in Iraq.

Mr Mousa, 26, was working as a receptionist when the Ibn al-Haitham hotel in Basra was raided by soldiers from 1st Battalion, Queen's Lancashire Regiment. He died at the regiment's base on 15 September 2003 having suffered 93 separate injuries. The inquiry was adjourned until March 15.

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