The Iraq Inquiry Report (2009-2016) documents how Tony Blair committed Great Britain to war early in 2002, lying to the United Nations, to Parliament, and to the British people, in order to follow George Bush, who had planned an aggression on Iraq well before September 2001.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard conspired with both reckless adventurers, purported ‘to advise’ both buccaneers, sent troops to Iraq before the war started, then lied to Parliament and to the Australian people. He continues to do so.
Should he and his cabal be charged with war crimes? This, and more, is investigated by Dr George Venturini in this outstanding series.
The bloody cost and legacy of the invasion (continued)
The evidence presented to the I.C.C. by Public Interest Lawyers includes allegations which would likely constitute war crimes. In one case, British forces arrived late at night at the home of a 43-year-old man in Basra. According to the claim, the man was separated from his family, including his wife; his 17-year-old son was “taken into a separate room, beaten, and handcuffed.” Soldiers then allegedly spent half an hour searching the house, destroying furniture and belongings. When his wife returned to the room, she found her husband “dead and covered with a blanket. He had been shot in the head.”
Other allegations include prolonged beatings by soldiers, stabbings, and sexual assaults. One detainee account recounts being raped by British personnel, who forced themselves into his mouth. “Each time he was raped he was hooded but he saw the soldiers before they raped him and each time it was different soldiers.” wrote lawyers summarising the claim. Another man, arrested just after the invasion in March 2003, said that, during some periods of detention, he “was raped or sexually assaulted every two hours.”
It is uncertain whether claims like these can be proven more than a decade after they allegedly took place. In its most recent quarterly update, I.H.A.T. reported that it had closed or was near to closing investigations into 59 allegations of unlawful killing. In 56 of those cases, the complaint was deemed “not sustainable” and unfit for referral to prosecutors. In May 2016 the British Supreme Court dismissed the claims of 600 Iraqis who alleged they had been unlawfully detained or mistreated by U.K. armed forces during the occupation. Citing Iraqi law, the court ruled that too much time had passed since the incidents in question. (S. Oakford, International Criminal Court Investigates Human Rights Abuses By British Forces In Iraq, The Intercept, 08.July 2016).
Meanwhile there are still cases underway brought by Iraqi civilians before British courts and at the International Criminal Court, the cases alleging torture by British troops. The U.K. government has already settled 323 cases, totalling some 19.6 million pounds. In the U.K. courts the Iraq Historic Allegations Team has fielded 3,363 cases since it was founded in 2010, including 325 that involved unlawful killings by British troops.
Then came the ultimate surprise: British troops will not have to worry about human rights anymore. It was revealed on 4 October 2016 that the U.K. government intended to introduce a new bill seeking the exemption of British troops from any lawsuit filed against them pursuant to their behaviour in war zones.
The proposals are being finalised owing to the extended role of European Convention on Human Rights.
The legislators pressing for the approval of the bill justify the move citing the tough role of British troops in war zones. They opine that the action was necessary fearing the probable drop out of troops.
Under the proposals, while British soldiers would be protected from action under E.C.H.R. law, they would still be subject to international humanitarian law, including the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and United Kingdom criminal law.
Prime Minister Theresa May supports the proposed legislation adding that the bill was designed to protect the front line armed troops when they return back from war zones.
“We will repay them with gratitude and put an end to the industry of vexatious claims that has pursued those who served in previous conflicts”, she said.
The Ministry of Defence had spent a lot of money for an inquiry into Iraq-related investigations but, with the enactment of the new law, the troops fighting in war zones would not worry about their actions in conflict with basic human rights.
Justifying the proposed bill, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon lamented that the country’s legal system had been misused in baseless allegations against troops. “It has caused significant distress to people who risked their lives to protect us, it has cost the taxpayer millions and there is a real risk it will stop our armed forces doing their job.” he said.
The Iraqi nationals had filed complaints against the English troops alleging violence and unlawful killings. (British troops don’t have to worry about ‘Human Rights’ anymore, Daily Pakistan Global, 4 October 2016).
Prime Minister Theresa May and the Minister of Defence Michael Fallon would soon be announcing that the United Kingdom would opt out of the European Convention on Human Rights to prevent vexatious victims’ from using the Convention provisions to mount spurious legal claims against British troops. The Ministry of Defense has spent more than 100 million pounds on investigations, inquiries and compensations.
In future conflicts, the United Kingdom will be bound only by the Geneva Conventions.
Under the new plan, the U.K. government would put a time limit for new claims, after which no cases will be accepted. Legal firms will also be discouraged to bring lawsuits against British troops through reducing the financial incentives on a “no win, no fee” basis.
“Those who serve on the frontline will have our support when they come home.” May will say in a joint statement with Fallon, according to a draft of her speech.
“Combined with the biggest defence budget in Europe, the action we are laying out today means we will continue to play our part on the world stage, protecting UK interests across the globe.” (UK to opt out of European Convention on Human Rights, GlobalSecurity.org, 4 October 2016).
But that was the easiest explanation.
The British government also happens to be under investigation at the moment by the European Court of Human Rights, for the practice of bulk surveillance. But that is perhaps not as important for the Prime Minister as getting away with potential war crimes.
The key question to ask is: If Britain has nothing to hide, why have millions of pounds been paid out to victims in recent years?
According to The Daily Mail, which is at the forefront of calls to exclude British troops from the human rights laws, 120 members of the Royal Military Police, the National Crime Agency, and the Greater Manchester Police are investigating alleged abuses by 150 British troops against 600 victims in Afghanistan. These investigations come under the auspices of Operation Northmoor, its H.Q. based at R.A.F. St. Mawgan Cornwall, which cost 7.5 million pounds.
However, The Mail neglected to add that, in the Sunday 24 June 2012 edition, it had reported claims of abuse carried out by British soldiers in a secret network of prisons in an Iraqi desert. (D. Rose, UK soldiers ‘beat innocent Iraqi men in black ops jails but new secret justice law means their torture will be hidden forever’, 24 June 2012).
Sixty four Iraqi prisoners, captured by the Australian Special Air Service on 12 April 2003, were subsequently taken away on R.A.F. helicopters to a ‘black site’ at an oil pipeline pumping station, known only as H1.
This secret place was run by British Forces and the C.I.A. One of the 64, Tariq Sabri, was killed – it seems – by suffocation by a member of the R.A.F. regiment aboard one of the Chinook helicopters. According to a leaked R.A.F. report, two unconscious men – one of them being Sabri – were loaded into a Humvee truck, one on top of the other. By the time it reached the camp, Sabri was dead.
A further 1,200 cases of alleged abuse by British troops would be discarded after the government criticised the allegations made by 5,000 victims, represented by Public Interest Lawyers and the law firm Leigh Day. That still would leave 250 claims to be investigated by the Iraq Historic Allegations Team. Like Operation Northmoor, I.H.A.T. is another ‘inside’ job: its 145 personnel include police, civil servants and Royal Navy officers. The investigations have cost 30 million pounds.
The investigations by the I.H.A.T. have produced a list of 1,374 cases as at 6 May 2016, the latest update. Some of the cases investigated by the ten-year-long Al-Sweady Inquiry into human rights abuses against Iraqi nationals by British troops in the aftermath of a 2004 firefight – notably those associated with the Shaibah Logistic Base for British troops serving in Iraq under the name Operation Telic, Operation Iraqi Freedom – are being examined by the International Criminal Court as part of a wider investigation into more than 1,200 cases. These include 259 civilian deaths and at least 47 Iraqi personnel who reportedly died in U.K. custody. Fourteen claims were made against a team of military and MI5 interrogators.
A preliminary investigation by the I.C.C. was compiled in 2014 based on several hundred allegations. (T. Coburg, The war crimes that Theresa May desperately wants to keep out of court, The Canary, 6 October 2016).
And there is more.
Many of the claims concerned allegations by victims after they were sent to the Joint Forward Intelligence Team, J.F.I.T. based at Shaibah Logistics Base. J.F.I.T. interrogators allegedly included military, MI5 and civilian staff.
Snatch squads formed from the Australian Special Air Service and the British Special Boat Service squadrons brought suspects to Camp Nama for questioning by U.S. interrogators. Former members of Task Force 121 and its successor unit Task Force 6-26 described the abuses they witnessed.
Some of the detainees were moved to the U.K.-U.S. Joint Operations Centre, for further treatment in the blue, red, black and soft rooms, as well as a shipping container lined with padding. According to an investigation by Human Rights Watch, detainees were subject to “beatings, exposure to extreme cold, threats of death, humiliation and various forms of psychological abuse or torture.”
The US despatched Stuart Herrington, a retired military intelligence colonel, to investigate Nama. In December 2013 he reported:
Detainees captured by Task Force 121 have shown injuries which caused examining medical personnel to note that ‘detainee shows signs of having been beaten’. It seems clear that Task Force 121 needs to be reined in with respect to its treatment of detainees.
The British contingent of Task Force 121 was Task Force Black, comprising Australian Special Air Service and British Special Boat Service troops. In the summer of 2014, Camp Nama was moved to Balad, where detainees were allegedly kept in dog kennels.
How long will the Australian Special Air Service behave like white Gurkhas? And will a question like this be asked in the Australian Parliament?
As far as the United States is concerned, it is clear that the Pentagon is hiding the dead, as Alison Banville wrote on 23 April 2015 and Dr. Nafeez Ahmed has recently documented in a larger study by the title: “How the Pentagon is hiding the dead – The secret campaign to undercount the ‘war on terror’ death toll in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Latin America.” (How the Pentagon is hiding the dead, BSNews, 21 April 2015).
The article opens with the following broadside: “In the name of ‘counting every casualty,’ the Pentagon is systematically undercounting deaths from the ‘war on terror’ and the ‘war on drugs,’ in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Latin America. Complicit in this great deception are some of the world’s most respected anti-war activists.
In this exclusive investigation, Insurge Intelligence reveals that a leading anti-war monitoring group, Iraq Body Count (IBC), is deeply embedded in the Western foreign policy establishment. IBC’s key advisers and researchers have received direct and indirect funding from US government propaganda agencies and Pentagon contractors. It is no surprise, then, that IBC-affiliated scholars promote narratives of conflict that serve violent US client-regimes and promote NATO counter-insurgency doctrines.
IBC has not only systematically underrepresented the Iraqi death toll, it has done so on the basis of demonstrably fraudulent attacks on standard scientific procedures. IBC affiliated scholars are actively applying sophisticated techniques of statistical manipulation to whitewash US complicity in violence in Afghanistan and Colombia.
Through dubious ideological alliances with US and British defense agencies, they are making misleading pseudoscience academically acceptable. Even leading medical journals are now proudly publishing their dubious statistical analyses that lend legitimacy to US militarism abroad.
This subordination of academic conflict research to the interests of the Pentagon sets a dangerous precedent: it permits the US government to control who counts the dead across conflicts involving US interests — all in the name of science and peace.” (How the Pentagon is hiding the dead, INSURGEIntelligence, 21 April 2015).
Tomorrow: The bloody cost and legacy of the invasion (continued)
Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini – ‘George’ devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. In 1975, invited by Attorney-General Lionel Keith Murphy, Q.C., he left a law chair in Chicago to join the Trade Practices Commission in Canberra – to serve the Whitlam Government. In time he witnessed the administration of a law of prohibition as a law of abuse, and documented it in Malpractice, antitrust as an Australian poshlost (Sydney 1980). He may be reached at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.