Soldier amnesia over detainee's death is queried

British soldiers accused of violently abusing Iraqi prisoners appeared to have put up a "wall of silence" against investigators, a public inquiry heard yesterday.

One of the detainees, Baha Mousa, 26, was beaten to death in September 2003 while he was imprisoned by soldiers from the former Queen's Lancashire Regiment.

Counsel for the inquiry into his death Gerard Elias QC said today: "There is what might be described as a wall of silence in respect of certain aspects of the events in question.

"A number of crucial soldier witnesses claim an almost total inability to remember the events of 14 to 16 September 2003.

"Whilst fading memories are to be expected, given the gravity of matters, such apparent collective amnesia may be hard to believe.

"This position would seem to apply in particular to a number of the members of the multiple commanded by Lieutenant (Craig) Rodgers whose closeness to the events is self-evident.

"If - we stress it is for examination - if there is a wall of silence does that betoken a genuine loss of memory or something more sinister?"

It is claimed that 10 prisoners were beaten, forced to maintain painful stress positions and deprived of food and sleep over the three days that they were detained.

The prisoners were forced to wear hoods and plastic handcuffs, and it is alleged they were denied medical care, kept in "revolting" conditions and that soldiers posed for photos as if they were punching the prisoners.

Mr Elias said that the abuse appeared to have taken place openly and that "gratuitous" violence was used against the prisoners, for example when soldiers would hit them so their cries made a grizzly "choir".

He said: "The detainees have alleged that the soldiers appeared to be taking bets on who could knock detainees to the floor and sometimes they were laughing during the assaults. Similarly there are numerous accounts from the soldiers of the choir which appears to have been carried out for the soldiers' amusement."

Rumours were circulated that the men had been involved in the deaths of six members of the Royal Military Police but this was wrong, the inquiry heard.

Concerns about their treatment were raised by Territorial Army Major Peter Quegan who wrote in his diary "during most of the day there has been loud shouting of prisoners with sacks on their heads.

"It does not seem to comply with the law of armed conflict that we see as part of our ITDs (Individual Training Directive). It's simply described as conditioning, in effect psychological torture.

"Some of the prisoners look in pain and at least one looks puffy around the face so it may also be physical. It all seems both wrong and pointless."

Soldiers apparently failed to notice the prisoners' injuries and medical conditions, for example one known only as Detainee 6 had a heart complaint and another, Ahmad Al-Matairi, had a hernia.

The inquiry was shown a training video which stressed that enemy prisoners should be given medical care, only blindfolded if travelling through sensitive areas and that violence was counter-productive.

However, it did allow personnel to preserve the "shock of capture" by maintaining the prisoners' state of anxiety and not giving them food before interrogation.

The probe being held to determine how Mr Mousa died, who if anyone was responsible, and to examine the Army's use of so-called "conditioning" techniques.

Corporal Donald Payne, seen in a video released last week screaming obscenities at the prisoners, pleaded guilty to inhumanely treating civilians at a court martial in September 2006.

He was dismissed from the Army and sentenced to one year in civilian jail.

Another six soldiers who also faced court martial on war crimes relating to Mr Mousa's death were cleared.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada