News24

UK: New Iraq abuse claims

2009-11-14 22:05

London - Iraqi civilians who were detained by British troops during the US-led war have levelled some 33 allegations of rape and abuse against male and female soldiers, Britain's ministry of defence said on Saturday.

The allegations come in the wake of the British withdrawal from Iraq this year.

One man says he was raped by two British soldiers while another claims he was sexually humiliated by both male and female personnel.

Others allege they were stripped naked and photographed in the same style as the notorious pictures at Abu Ghraib, where abuses of prisoners by US troops helped fuel anti-American sentiment.

British soldiers have faced a series of claims that they mistreated Iraqi civilians in southern Iraq during six years of combat operations. Last year, Britain settled a legal case involving the death of one Iraqi civilian, and the abuse of nine others, paying out nearly £3m in compensation.

A public inquiry is still under way into the death of hotel worker Baha Mousa. He died in the custody of British troops following a raid on his hotel in the southern Iraq city of Basra in 2003 and suffered 93 separate injuries. British Cpl. Donald Payne pleaded guilty to inhumanely treating Iraqi civilians in Britain's first war crimes conviction.

Sexual humiliation

"Given the history of the UK's involvement in the development of these techniques alongside the US, it is deeply concerning that there appears to be strong similarities between instances of the use of sexual humiliation," Phil Shiner, the lawyer representing the Iraqis who made the claims, said in a letter to the ministry of defence.

He said some Iraqis are coming forward now since the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq this year.

The ministry of defence said the allegations were being taken seriously.

"Over 120 000 British troops have served in Iraq and the vast majority have conducted themselves to the highest standards of behaviour, displaying integrity and selfless commitment," the ministry said in a statement.

"There have been instances when individuals have behaved badly but only a tiny number have been shown to have fallen short of our high standards. Allegations of this nature are taken very seriously but must not be taken as fact.

Formal investigations must be allowed to take their course."

Armed forces minister Bill Rammell said any new claims of mistreatment will be investigated.