Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Video of British soldier shouting abuse at Iraqis shown at Baha Mousa inquiry.

This footage was shown yesterday at the opening session of a public inquiry into how the hotel receptionist, Baha Mousa, was killed while in British custody.

The film shows Corporal Donald Payne, formerly of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment, shouting and swearing at the Iraqis as they are forced to maintain painful "stress positions".

The video is a key piece of evidence in a wide-ranging inquiry into the death of Mousa, which got under way today. Mousa died after sustaining 93 injuries while being detained by soldiers from the former Queen's Lancashire Regiment in Basra, southern Iraq, in September 2003.

A central issue of the inquiry is why five "conditioning techniques" – hooding prisoners, putting them in stress positions, depriving them of sleep, depriving them of food and water, and playing white noise – were used on Iraqi detainees. The techniques, inflicted on IRA suspects, were banned in 1972 by the then prime minister, Edward Heath.

In an opening statement, Gerard Elias QC, counsel to the inquiry, said of the film: "Even if one considers only the video that we have just looked at, it may be thought to be entirely apparent that these detainees were being subjected to stress positions and prolonged hooding.

Detailing the abuses against six other Iraqis arrested with Mousa, Elias said: "One man says he was made to dance in the style of Michael Jackson."

Other detainees claimed they were urinated on and forced to lie face down over a hole in the ground filled with excrement.

The inquiry heard "scandalous" allegations that the soldiers tried to manipulate the detainees' moans into an "orchestrated choir".
How did it come to this? When did the nations who invented and crafted the Geneva Conventions, come to believe that this kind of crap was acceptable?

All of this nonsense was outlawed in this country in 1972.

But, as more and more footage emerges, one is left unable to deny that this, somewhere down the line, became official policy in Iraq. The abusing of prisoners appears to have become almost routine.

I find it quite uncomfortable to watch the way hooded prisoners react, even when they are not the person the abuse is being aimed at. And, needless to say, we know nothing about who these men are and what they are alleged to have done. No court has found them guilty of any crime. They are, at the moment this abuse is being heaped towards them, under the eyes of the law, entirely innocent.

It's simply shameful.

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