Human stories which implicate British soldiers in Iraqi abuses

An Amnesty report on the role of British forces in Iraq paints a devastating picture of soldiers killing civilians, cases not properly investigated and families left in the dark about the fate of their relatives
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'Captain apologised for death in the dark'

By Andrew Clennell

Hazam Jumah Kati, 60, and a neighbour were shot dead by British soldiers after leaving home unarmed at night to investigate shooting outside, Amnesty says.

Their report claims a British captain told Hazam's father afterwards: "It was dark. I am sorry."

Hazam was with 25-year-old Abed Abd al-Karim Hassan, in Hay al-Shuhada, al-Majdiyeh, near Basra, in August.

"Iraqis nearby had fired into the air to mark the death of a local sheikh," the report said. "About 15 minutes after the gunfire, a UK military patrol arrived.

"Hazam Jumah Kati and Abed Abd al-Karim Hussan were walking back home along the narrow road."

Mr Kati's father, Jumah, told Amnesty that after the patrol parked, the men opened fire. He added: "A man told me, 'There are people dead on the road.' A group of us then went to the patrol. One of us spoke English a bit. He asked, 'Who did you kill?' The soldier told him to accompany him [to the bodies]. I said to [the] captain, 'Why did you kill?' He said, 'I am sorry. There was a mistake. I apologise'.

"I repeated the question. He said, 'It was dark. One colleague was in a hurry. I am sorry. I don't accept such behaviour'."

Man was killed while on community patrol

By Andrew Clennell

Wa'el Rahim Jabar, 20, was shot and killed by a British paratrooper in Amarah last year, the report claims.

Mr Jabar was allegedly shot when he was seen walking the streets at night with a Kalashnikov rifle slung over his shoulder.

Amnesty says Mr Jabar had been assigned by his local community to protect the Hay Abu Romaneh district.

It says that at the time, 26 May - less than one month after George Bush declared the war over - the security situation had not been stabilised in Amarah and it was common for Iraqis to carry weapons. Mr Jabar was accompanied by two unarmed friends when he was shot, it is claimed.

"It was ... dark, so they did not realise that there was a UK military foot patrol with no interpreter in the area," the report says. "One of the paratroopers began shooting from a distance of about six metres, firing two rounds which struck Mr Jabar in the chest and neck, killing him immediately."

Amnesty says that 10 days after the attack, a group of paratroopers visited Mr Jabar's uncle, Daoud Salman Sajet, and "expressed their condolences".

But the soldiers "stressed" that the soldier opened fire because the British Army had warned Iraqis not to carry weapons in public.

In June, a lawyer for Mr Jabar's family made a complaint about the killing to a representative of the Coalition Provisional Authority. Amnesty said that by February this year, the family had not received a response and were unaware the Royal Military Police was investigating the killing.

Marriage celebration that ended in shooting

By Cahal Milmo

To Ghanem Kati, the sound of shots near his home on New Year's Day this year was just a normal expression of exuberance at a neighbour's wedding.

But a British boat patrol who also heard the gunfire in the village of Beit Asfar, near Basra, interpreted it as a potential threat.

Witnesses told Amnesty International that two soldiers took up positions on a wall opposite the home of the 22-year-old within 15 minutes of the celebratory shots. A neighbour, who claimed that he saw one of the soldiers crouch at the end of the wall and aim towards Ghanem, said he tried to explain that the shots had been related to a wedding.

About eight minutes later the soldier is alleged to have fired from 50 metres. The Amnesty report said: "Ghanem was unarmed and standing with his back to the soldiers near the door of his home. Two bullets went through his body, killing him."

An investigation was launched into the shooting by the Royal Military Police, who interviewed five witnesses, photographed the house and removed the front door, which had been hit by two bullets.

The body of Ghanem, who had returned to his home from exile in Iran after the fall of Saddam Hussein and was working as a money-changer, was exhumed and flown to Basra for a post-mortem examination.

In an attempt to elicit more information, military police distributed a leaflet around Beit Asfar asking in English and Arabic for witnesses. Samples of DNA were taken from close relatives. But the family - still awaiting results of the military police inquiry - say they were not given one potentially vital piece of information: the procedures for applying for compensation from the allied forces.

Search for work that ended in a riot and three deaths

By Cahal Milmo

On the morning of 10 January, hundreds of young Iraqi men gathered in the town of Amarah, about 180 miles south of Baghdad, to apply for jobs in the new Iraqi Civil Defence Corps.

When it became clear that there were no jobs, the crowd began to riot, storming government offices and burgling shops.

Some time after 9am, more than 100 members of the Emergency Brigade, a new section of the Iraqi Police Service, arrived to quell the violence. According to witnesses, the Emergency Brigade, armed with Kalashnikov rifles but untrained in crowd control, began firing randomly while advancing towards the protesters.

The Iraqi police were joined by British soldiers from the 1st Battalion Light Infantry, who took up positions between them and the crowd.

Within two hours, Maher al-Wahid Muften, 17, and Muhannad Jureid, 23, were dead. By 3pm, Rahim Adiou, 35, had joined the list of fatalities. The chief of police for Amarah admitted that his men "may have opened fire".

A British Army spokesman said at the time: "One, maybe two [of the dead] were possibly killed by UK troops. Those troops were firing in self-defence. It was quite clear that a number of objects were thrown at the UK troops, possibly grenades."

According to Amnesty, two of the men - Muften and Adiou - died of single bullets to the back of the head. Jureid was killed by a bullet to the body. The Iraqi-run Office of Forensic Medicine told Amnesty that no post-mortem examinations were done because "the cause of death was obvious".

The organisation said attempts by the Public Safety Committee - the body responsible for overseeing the Iraqi Police Service in the area - to inspect the scene failed.

There has also been a lack of witnesses ready to testify at the committee, according to Amnesty.

British 'turned blind eye' to violence

British forces in Iraq failed to combat hundreds of murders committed in pursuit of ethnic cleansing and political vendettas, said the report.

The Shias in the south, with their history of opposition to Saddam Hussein, were regarded as natural allies, so a blind eye was allegedly turned to violence by Shia gangs.

Shia gunmen killed six Christian shopkeepers selling alcohol. On 15 February, a gang opened fire in a mainly Christian area, killing nine people. About 150 Christian families are believed to have fled Basra. Also killed were dozens of Sunni members of the Baath party and former officials. Iraqi police have picked up 60 bodies. The true number of deaths, says the report, is "probably much higher".

AmnestyInternational failed to find one case in the British-controlled zone where anyone has been prosecuted for ethnic or political killings.

Concerns over compensation claims

By Kim Sengupta

The report raises concerns over the compensation scheme for families whose loved ones have been killed by British troops.

Families are often given no information on how to lodge a compensation claim and wrongly told that any liability would rest with a new Iraqi government, it claims.

The Independent has learned that the Ministry of Defence has paid £8,125 in compensation for three deaths involving British forces. The army insists payments do not reflect any admission of guilt on its part. The sum is fixed by Iraqi judges, after meetings with tribal councils.

The Amnesty report claims that many families whose relatives have been killed by UK forces are not advised on compensation by the British military.

The claims must be lodged at the British HQ at Basra airport. When relatives finally arrive, claims officers are said to have been rarely available.