Disturbing graphic allegations of sexual and physical abuse of Iraqi civilians by British soldiers are among 33 new torture cases being investigated by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
The fresh claims include allegations that female and male soldiers sexually abused and humiliated detainees in camps in southern Iraq, prompting comparisons with the torture practices employed by US soldiers at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.
In one case, British soldiers are accused of piling Iraqi prisoners on top of each other and subjecting them to electric shocks, an echo of the abuse at the notorious US detention centre that came to light in 2004.
Lawyers and human rights groups warned yesterday that the British Army may face hundreds of claims of sexual and physical abuse after it was revealed the MoD was investigating the 33 cases.
Phil Shiner, the lawyer representing all the former detainees, is asking for a judicial review of the cases and a wider public inquiry. "I have it on good authority that there are hundreds of cases that are going uninvestigated. My guess is that many of them will remain buried."
The former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell, a member of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said: "This is yet another element of the long, toxic legacy of Iraq. Only the fullest investigation will suffice."
The armed forces minister Bill Rammell said that "formal investigations" must be carried out "without judgements being made prematurely". The vast majority of British troops "conducted themselves to the highest standards of behaviour", he said, and that only a tiny number had fallen short of this standard. "Allegations of this nature are taken very seriously; however, allegations must not be taken as fact and formal investigations must be allowed to take their course without judgements being made prematurely," he said.
Pressure on the MoD is expected to intensify tomorrow at the Baha Mousa inquiry, which is hearing evidence into the death of an Iraqi father beaten to death by British troops in 2003. Former corporal Donald Payne, the only soldier convicted for the death, will give evidence. The inquiry has already been told Payne was a scapegoat and that others had been involved.
The 33 new cases include allegations of controversial techniques widely used by the Americans, including mock executions, dog attacks and exposure to pornography.
Hussain Hashim Khinyab, 35, a father-of-three, was arrested in April 2006. He claims he was badly tortured at the British camp at Shaibah and later sexually abused by female personnel. He alleges he saw male and female soldiers engaging in sexual intercourse in front of the prisoners in order to deliberately humiliate them.
The abuse continued in the camp hospital after he was allegedly given an overdose of medicine. Mr Khinyab said: "A nurse called 'K' used to expose herself and make love to other soldiers in front of us.
"Once she administered to me 15 tablets when I complained about my stomach. She asked me to swallow them all at once."
He said his health deteriorated rapidly and he was detained overnight. "While in the clinic, 'K' stripped completely naked and tried to have sex with me. I was so shocked and disgusted,
"I pleaded with her not to do that, she even tried to use what I thought was anaesthetic to make me sleep. I started shouting. Then she dressed quickly and pleaded with me not to tell the duty doctor who came to see what was the matter."
"I was told the dose that was given to me was the reason for my condition and the nurse would be transferred somewhere else as a punishment. I was told that half of my heart had stopped working and they had resuscitated it using electric shocks.
"I still suffer from my stomach ulcer which is preventing me from even fasting in the month of Ramadan."
Mr Khinyab was later transferred to Basra airport detention centre where he claims the abuse continued.
"It started with tearing of our copies of the Koran in front of us. Beating, kicking and punching accompanied us all the way."
Mazin Younis, the Iraqi human rights campaigner who compiled the allegations, said many alleged victims waited years before coming forward because they were afraid of what would happen if they complained.