Army 'involved in torture mission with US troops'

Law Editor,Robert Verkaik
Friday 16 July 2010 00:00 BST

Claims that British soldiers used water torture on a badly beaten Iraqi man before unlawfully handing him over to US interrogators are being investigated by the Ministry of Defence. The troubling case includes the first evidence before a UK court of British soldiers being directly involved in a joint torture operation with US forces.

Ali Lafteh Eedan, 37, says that for three hours British and US soldiers attempted to drown him by pushing his head into a bucket of water in August 2008. His case is the latest of 100 allegations being investigated by the Ministry of Defence's Iraqi historic abuse team.

Today High Court judges are to clear the way for a court case to force the Government to open a judicial inquiry into all allegations of abuse and torture.

Mr Eedan, who is being represented by human rights solicitors Public Interest Lawyers, says he was a senior member of Iraq's National Intelligence Service before his arrest and detention. In his witness statement he alleges that a joint unit of American and British soldiers raided his Basra home at around 1am on 11 August 2008 while he, his wife and four children were asleep.

He claims a British soldier hit him in the face and when he fell to the ground three others stamped on him. Another British soldier terrified his family by firing his rifle inside the house.

"I was led to my bathroom. A British interpreter and soldier arrived, together with two US soldiers," recalled Mr Eedan, who now works as a Basra restaurateur. "The American soldiers started to interrogate me with the British soldiers translating."

After he failed to identify four photographs of Iranian suspects linked to rocket attacks on British bases, the American soldiers began to beat him with their rifle butts, he alleges. A British captain then started questioning him about the whereabouts of rockets.

"The American soldier threw me on the floor, took his gun out, stuck it to my head and began swearing at me. He wanted to shoot me and I thought he was going to. The soldiers took a bucket, filled it with water and pushed my head into the water many times, pulling it out each time it looked I was about to lose consciousness ... they continued for almost three hours."

Mr Eedan also claims that both the US and British soldiers beat him severely. "One of the soldiers was particularly tough. He kicked me and struck me repeatedly with a rifle butt. It was relentless. As for the British captain, he was swearing at me, insulting my family and my mother. He said, 'You used those rockets against us and we are going to get our own back on you.'"

Mr Eedan was later transferred to Basra Airport before being handed over to the Americans at Camp Cropper in Baghdad, ahead of Britain's withdrawal from Iraq. At both camps he says he was badly beaten and tortured. He was finally released by the Americans at the end of August 2008. He says a senior officer in the British Army later wrote to him explaining that his detention had been a case of mistaken identity.

By 2007 it became clear that American forces were using waterboarding to interrogate "high value" prisoners. This latest case shows how cross-fertilisation between the US and British interrogators led to a sharing of torture techniques during the hunt for terror suspects in Iraq.

Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers said: "The allegation of UK involvement in water torture is particularly troubling. It must also be said that the marked similarity of the claimant's allegations with so many other cases lends a great weight of credibility to the allegations.

"It appears the UK aided and assisted the US in the commission of torture and is also separately responsible for the torture being carried out by a common organ of which it formed part."

A spokesman for the MoD saud last night: " We have always treated allegations of wrong doing extremely seriously. We were made aware of these allegations very recently and are now investigating. It is important to remember that these remain allegations."

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