Exclusive report

Does this picture show British soldiers broke Geneva Conventions?

Public inquiry to be launched into allegations of abuse against Iraqi civilians at UK-run detention camp

A photograph handed to The Independent claims to show Iraqi civilians captured in southern Iraq being mistreated by British soldiers in breach of international law and the Geneva Conventions.

The incident is to be investigated at a public inquiry to be announced tomorrow by Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth, which will also examine evidence of one of the worst atrocities ever carried out by the British Army.

It is claimed that hours after the picture, left, was taken, the four men were transferred to a UK-run detention camp where they were badly beaten and where 20 other civilians were murdered by British soldiers.

Lawyers for the men say the photograph, held by the Army since May 2004 but only disclosed this year, supports evidence of the routine abuse of Iraqi prisoners.

The covering of a prisoner's face and rear handcuffing on the ground is a breach of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions which prohibits the humiliating and degrading treatment of detainees.

When this is done to support interrogations, as in this case, it also contravenes Article 31: prohibition of physical and moral coercion. It is also a breach of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as the Army's own rules on the hooding of prisoners.

The International Committee of the Red Cross raised concerns about similar breaches in February 2004 when it warned the UK and US governments of these practices. The new evidence will add to calls for a full and proper public inquiry into 33 further abuse cases involving allegations against the British Army in Iraq between 2003 and 2008.

Last night, Lord David Ramsbotham, a former commander of the British Field Army and a former chief inspector of prisons, said he believed the picture showed inhuman and degrading treatment. He told The Independent: "There can be few people who have not been sickened, and saddened, by the images of Iraqi citizens being subjected to what is well described as inhuman and degrading treatment, at the hands of certain British soldiers.

"Sickened because this is not the kind of treatment associated with a nation that calls itself civilised; saddened because it besmirches the reputation of the British Army, so carefully preserved by so many people in many different circumstances," he said.

Kevin Laue, the legal adviser to Redress, which works with victims of torture, said: "In my view, what the photograph shows could well constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment ... they appear to have been blindfolded to such an extent that almost their whole face has been covered, including the nose and even the mouth, which if so would obviously make normal breathing difficult...

"The photograph raises numerous questions which would need to be asked and answered to decide if the treatment could be justified. On the face of it, it is wrong," he said.

Phil Shiner, the lawyer who pushed for a public inquiry into the alleged massacre and mutilation of 20 Iraqi civilians in the aftermath of the Battle of "Danny Boy", which involved British forces, near Basra in May 2004, said: "The MoD conceded an inquiry not simply because of late disclosure, but because much of that disclosure supported our clients' allegations.

"This evidence had gone uninvestigated by the Royal Military Police, undermined the MoD's case and showed how it had been misrepresented to the court. An inquiry is essential so that lessons can be urgently learned and, where necessary, perpetrators brought to justice in relation to this incident and the hundreds of other cases involving civilians that we now know went uninvestigated in Iraq."

Government lawyers admitted in the summer that in 2004 the Armed Forces minister had written a draft confidential letter, addressed to No 10, which referred to complaints made by the International Committee of the Red Cross in connection with the alleged ill-treatment of detainees held by the Army after the battle. It was the discovery of this correspondence which led the Government to withdraw its defence to a judicial inquiry into the alleged massacre and abuse of the Iraqis.

Lawyers for the Iraqis and the families of those who died said the case raised allegations that were among the most serious in modern British military history. Tomorrow, Mr Ainsworth will tell Parliament the name of the judge chosen to head the inquiry, referred to as Al Sweady after the lead claimant in the case.

The Government has always maintained that the victims were all killed in battle while their families' lawyers say they were innocent farmers who tried to flee the fighting.

An MoD spokesman said: "We have found no credible evidence that those detained, as a result of the attack on British troops and prolonged fire-fight at the Danny Boy checkpoint, were mistreated.

"The treatment of the detainees shown in the photograph does not amount to a breach of the Geneva Conventions, it is important to remember that our first priority at the end of such attacks is to protect our personnel from further threats.

"The events that followed will, in due course, be considered by the Al Sweady inquiry."

Geneva Conventions

*Hooding, cuffing and forced to lie in stress positions in the sun:

Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions prohibits the humiliating and degrading treatment of detainees.

*Article 31 of the Conventions prohibits physical and moral coercion techniques used to support interrogations.

*Article 3 of the European Conventions on Human Rights bans inhuman and degrading treatment.

The Army's own rules forbid hooding of prisoners and handcuffing their arms behind their back on the ground.

Covering the faces in this way restricts breathing, and to all intents and purposes, is the same as hooding. Its use in May 2004 contradicts the assurances given by the Armed Forces minister in 2004 and General Brims in 2006 to the Parliamentary Joint Human Rights Committee that hooding/face covering had been effectively outlawed.

*Handcuffing to the rear restricts breathing, has been known to lead to deaths in custody and renders a prisoner unable to break his fall if pushed.

Suggested Topics
News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA powerful collection of reportage on Egypt’s cycle of awakening and relapse
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
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