We learned yesterday of the US ignoring Iraqis torturing Iraqis, and today The Guardian have managed to unearth British army training methods which appear to be in direct breach of the Geneva Conventions.
The images which emerged from Abu Ghraib were supposed to be the work of a few American bad apples, but it is becoming increasingly clear that both the American and the British interrogation methods had been changed and that nakedness and humiliation had become part and parcel of the way in which both country's interrogators chose to elicit the maximum information.
Training materials drawn up secretly in recent years tell interrogators they should aim to provoke humiliation, insecurity, disorientation, exhaustion, anxiety and fear in the prisoners they are questioning, and suggest ways in which this can be achieved.
One PowerPoint training aid created in September 2005 tells trainee military interrogators that prisoners should be stripped before they are questioned. "Get them naked," it says. "Keep them naked if they do not follow commands." Another manual prepared around the same time advises the use of blindfolds to put prisoners under pressure.
A manual prepared in April 2008 suggests that "Cpers" – captured personnel – be kept in conditions of physical discomfort and intimidated. Sensory deprivation is lawful, it adds, if there are "valid operational reasons". It also urges enforced nakedness.
More recent training material says blindfolds, earmuffs and plastic handcuffs are essential equipment for military interrogators, and says that while prisoners should be allowed to sleep or rest for eight hours in each 24, they need be permitted only four hours unbroken sleep. It also suggests that interrogators tell prisoners they will be held incommunicado unless they answer questions.These are clear breaches of the Geneva Conventions which state that no "physical or moral coercion" is permissible.
I used to believe that this was simply an American problem, but the Guardian's discovery of this British training manual must lead one to conclude that this became official coalition policy during the War on Terror.
I, long ago, came to the conclusion that American use of torture was systemic, simply based on the fact that what was happening (everywhere where torture was alleged) all followed a familiar pattern: enforced nakedness, use of noise and light to produce sleep deprivation, and a myriad of other things, were almost always without aberration. One never heard of nails being pulled out, of eyes gouged. It really was as if they were following a textbook.
Next month, at the high court in London, lawyers representing more than 100 Iraqis who were held and interrogated by British forces, between the March 2003 invasion and April 2007, will argue that there is compelling evidence that they were tortured in a systematic manner.
The abuse, documented by a team of lawyers led by a Birmingham solicitor, Phil Shiner, includes 59 allegations of detainees being hooded, 11 of electric shocks, 122 of sound deprivation through the use of earmuffs, 52 of sleep deprivation, 131 of sight deprivation using blackened goggles, 39 of enforced nakedness and 18 allegations that detainees were kept awake by pornographic DVDs played on laptops.
At a preliminary hearing, a high court judge said it appeared to be accepted by the MoD that there were "arguable cases of ill-treatment" and added: "It appears also to be accepted that there is an arguable case of something systemic."
The Guardian today reveal the British version of that textbook.
Someone, somewhere, gave permission for this. Someone authorised it.
They ought to be prosecuted. They are criminals.
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