Phil Shiner: The MoD blames 'a few bad apples'. I blame the MoD

Share
Related Topics

Baha Mousa died of 93 injuries. For the 36 hours this 26-year-old Iraqi survived in British detention, he was hooded, deprived of sleep, food and water, and forced to maintain the "ski" stress position.

Hassan, 14, was forced to give a man oral sex and maintain a prolonged simulated sex position. The watching soldiers laughed out loud. The MoD wants us to believe these were isolated incidents in Iraq and that the "few bad apples" thesis prevails. But has there been systematic abuse by the British during its occupation of Iraq?

The MoD agreed to pay £2.83m last week to Mousa's family and the other nine survivors of the incident. They too had been tortured and subjected to the five banned interrogation techniques from Northern Ireland: hooding, stressing, withholding of food and drink, sleep deprivation and the use of noise.

There are a growing number of other cases in the English courts concerning killings, torture, and the use of these interrogation techniques by the British in Iraq. One of these concerns allegations that, in 2004, 20 Iraqis were executed and another nine tortured in detention at Naji. Another concerns five Iraqis abused and hooded as recently as April 2007.

The evidence from the court martial into Mousa's death is compelling. Hooding and stressing was written policy. Interrogators were trained in these techniques which reflected "verbal and written Nato policy". The head of the Army's legal service in Iraq, Lt Col Nicholas Mercer, and the Red Cross complained bitterly about hooding and stressing and tried to get the chain of command to apply basic human rights, but were rebuked.

The policy continued even after Mousa's death because, it seems, the United States was already complaining that British interrogation techniques were too "soft", as they put it. Sexual and religious humiliation and coercive interrogation are among the psychological and physiological techniques used by both the US and Britain during the Cold War, yet they are prohibited by numerous human-rights conventions.

Detainees tend to be arrested at dawn, when their physiological powers are lowest, and then "conditioned" to maintain the shock of being captured. An exhausted detainee subjected to prolonged hooding, stressing, food, water and sleep deprivation or enforced exercise is much more likely to be susceptible to coercive interrogation techniques. Similarly, sexual humiliation is part of a systematic approach designed to produce not just debility, but a complete stripping of a person's identity, self-respect and sense of order.

The Government banned the five techniques in 1972 and promised that if any other government wanted to reintroduce them, it would be for Parliament to decide. There should, therefore, be a national outcry at the fact that they were covertly reintroduced, just as there would be if Hassan had been subjected to this shocking abuse by policemen or prison officers in Britain.

It seems, though, that British society cannot face the truth about itself. The alleged massacre in Naji in 2004 is redolent of colonial times, as is the shocking disregard for Iraqis' humanity and sensitivities (for example, the codenaming of one operation was "Ali Baba").

Once the legal standards had been set so low, interrogation techniques that violated the prohibition on torture leached into a propensity for mindless savagery and thuggery. Our Foreign and Defence Secretaries choose to ignore the evidence of systematic abuse and use of psychological techniques, on the grounds that "a few rogue elements have been weeded out".

If the detailed evidence to the contrary was not so tragic, I, too, would laugh out loud.

Phil Shiner is a solicitor at Public Interest Lawyers and is acting in the cases in this article

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas