Torture in Iraq: British soldiers go scot-free but funds to ‘reform’ Lanka military
Posted on January 16th, 2016

By Daya Gamage – Asian Tribune Foreign Affairs Note Courtesy Asiantribune.com

Washington, D.C. 14 January (Asiantribune.com):

The British Foreign Office State Minister for Asia Hugo Swire arrived in Colombo, Sri Lanka January 14 with 6.6 million Sterling Pounds (US$9.5 million or Rs. 1.36 billion), a Conflict Stability and Security Fund, as mentioned by Mr. Swire in an official letter to another British parliamentarian Siobhain McDonagh, ” has been earmarked for support to the armed forces, which we envisage focusing on ethics, law and governance training and on sharing best practice from reshaping the British armed forces, including on re-training those leaving the armed forces and rationalizing the defense estate”.The UK Foreign Office Minister for Asia, Hugo Swire

“The overarching objective of the £6.6 million of the Conflict Stability and Security Fund is to support Sri Lanka in implementing the commitments it has made to the international community on promoting peace, accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka”, Mr. Swire’s 26 December 2015 letter further states.

The UK opposition MPs have expressed concern about the British government’s decision to provide £6.6 million to the Sri Lankan government which will include funds towards military reform without sufficient clarity on what sort of reform is expected.

“The conduct of the Sri Lankan military is in need of serious improvement, but if the UK Government is intent on providing taxpayer’s money to Sri Lanka you must be explicit about what reforms you want to see in return. In addition, we request that you clarify how this part of the funding allocation will be spent and whether any of the £6.6m pledged will be given directly to the Government of Sri Lanka,” the Labour MP and Senior Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils, Siobhain McDonagh queried from the British government.

State Minister of Foreign Affairs for Asia Hugo Swire’s reply, quoted earlier, was in response to this query. Mr. Swire in that letter stated that he would meet the Tamil expatriate group before leaving for Sri Lanka.

This British Conflict Stability and Security Fund-package to inculcate discipline in Sri Lanka’s military “in the form of rationalizing the defense estate” is brought by Hugo Swire at a time inhuman torture and summary executions of Iraqis perpetrated by the members of the British military stationed in Iraq since the 2003 invasion and toppling of Sadham Hussein have been whitewashed, suppressed and allowing the investigation to drag for almost ten years without accountability and transparency at all.

Despite the British military has commenced with an internal investigation, the process has not yet resulted in any recommendations for a prosecution and it has been criticized by rights campaigners for moving too slowly.
Hours-long beatings, stabbings, repeated sexual assault and music as torture: Just some of the abuses allegedly inflicted upon Iraqi people by British soldiers during their occupation of Iraq, according to a new dossier provided to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and obtained by the international news organization VICE News.

The horrifying allegations are contained in documents sent by the United Kingdom’s Birmingham-based firm Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) to the ICC, which ended an initial inquiry into alleged crimes committed by UK forces in Iraq in 2006 citing a lack of evidence, but went on to reopen the preliminary examination in late 2015.

The Asian Tribune research found that according to the allegations compiled by PIL, which span more than five years, from the 2003 US-led invasion until 2008, detainees were commonly beaten, made to wear black-out goggles, and left hooded — making breathing difficult — for hours following their initial arrest by British forces. They were kicked and hit with guns if they moved or asked for explanations for their detention. In some cases, detainees were allegedly threatened with execution. Several of the claims describe the use of electric shocks to torture Iraqis. Sleep deprivation, triggered by booming music, shouting, or the hurling of objects, also featured prominently in some accounts.

The Asian Tribune is in a position to highlight one particularly disturbing claim that was brought on behalf of a man reportedly killed by British forces in April 2007. The 26-year-old was living with his wife and one-month-old daughter when soldiers allegedly entered his neighborhood.

“There had been no fighting in the area,” recounted the PIL communication, based on a claim brought by the man’s adoptive father, who said he was also present at the home. “The soldiers surrounded the deceased’s house and shot from the street directly into the bedroom,” wrote PIL solicitors.

“The deceased died instantly. The soldier then shot at the deceased’s wife who was carrying their baby,” said the claim. The man’s wife reportedly later died, as did others in the neighborhood, who were allegedly targeted by UK troops.

PIL sent two separate communications containing the allegations to the ICC in January 2014 and September 2015, and itemized them in their entirety in what they called the Iraq Abuse Handbook. As of October 2015, the handbook listed 1,251 cases, most of which were discussed in the second communication, according to the international news organization VICE News.

Along with the ICC, claims made against British forces have been lodged with authorities in the UK, including with the Iraq Historical Allegations Team (IHAT), an investigative body established by the British Ministry of Defense.

The Asian Tribune research found the news outlets reports declaring that since its formation in 2010, IHAT has referred only one case forwarded by PIL to military prosecutors, who subsequently declined to start proceedings.

News reports further notes that human rights observers say previous investigations in the UK have fallen woefully short of determining culpability for select crimes committed in Iraq. Should the ICC chose to pursue an unprecedented official investigation into the actions of UK forces in Iraq, it would largely do so in light of perceived future failures on the part of the British government to investigate Iraqi claims, the Asian Tribune found the media reporting.

The Asian Tribune further found that one testimonial in PIL’s documents recounts the arrival of British forces at a home in Basra on August 18, 2008, just a few months before the UK pulled out of Iraq. A man’s wife, whose name was redacted in the second communication, said that her 43-year-old husband was asleep in his bedroom at the time of the assault. With him were their five children and the man’s brother, as well as the claimant. After breaking into the home, soldiers allegedly took one of the sons to another room where he was “beaten and handcuffed.” After several hours of detention, the man’s wife emerged from a hallway “and found her husband dead and covered with a blanket,” killed by gunfire to his head.

Other alleged killings included that of a 17-year-old caught in the crossfire between British soldiers and armed assailants in August 2006. Already wounded, “the British forces saw the deceased on the floor and shot him through his neck and stabbed him in the chest with a knife,” said a summary of the case. “They proceeded to drag him for between 40-50 meters as they stepped and kicked his body.” PIL staff wrote that this information was relayed to the claimant by Iraqi police.

It has been reported that yet the ICC’s decision to open a preliminary examination — the first step before a possible investigation and prosecutions — only came after PIL’s initial communication, filed jointly with the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, arrived at the court in January 2014. In its annual report issued earlier November 2015, the office of the prosecutor of the ICC said it had received allegations of 259 unlawful killings of civilians, including 47 of Iraqis who reportedly died in UK custody.

The international news network VICE News says that its request for comment on the allegation was refused by the UK Ministry of Defense.

As of December 2015, only one British soldier, Corporal Donald Payne, has been sentenced for war crimes violations in Iraq. Payne was jailed for one year after pleading guilty to inhumanely treating an Iraqi, Baha Mousa, who died in custody of UK forces in September 2003.

Media however reports, Asian Tribune found, though Payne’s jailing and discharge from the UK military was significant, other soldiers involved in the incident were cleared of charges lodged against them, as was Payne of manslaughter charges.

The Asian Tribune investigative research found that the proceedings of war crime probes by the Iraq Historical Allegations Team (IHAT), an investigative body established by the British Ministry of Defense, is now in their fifth year, and is not expected to escalate its own inquiry in the immediate future. Critics have disparaged IHAT for its slow speed of working. In 2012, a staffer at the inquiry, Louise Thomas, resigned in protest over what she considered was “little more than a whitewash.” The Guardian reported that she had seen interrogation films from the Iraq occupation which showed ill-treatment of prisoners. Several such videos, showing soldiers screaming at and threatening detainees with death have also emerged in recent years.

It is with this background of impunity in Britain that the UK’s foreign ministry official Hugo Swire is in Sri Lanka offering 6..6 million Sterling Pounds as “earmarked for support to the armed forces, which we envisage focusing on ethics, law and governance training and on sharing best practice from reshaping the British armed forces, including on re-training those leaving the armed forces and rationalizing the defense estate”.

With that dismal record established by the British armed forces in Iraq one could question what has been left by the British for Sri Lanka to ‘share its best practices from shaping its own armed forces.” Further, the British Government has not set an example for any country when its own defense ministry probe has been dragging for a decade with just one prosecution.

– Asian Tribune –

One Response to “Torture in Iraq: British soldiers go scot-free but funds to ‘reform’ Lanka military”

  1. Chancy Says:

    It is time for our military to stand up and protest against this foreign intervention. We are no longer a colony.

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