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31 July 2008 Edition

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The Mary Nelis Column

British Army torture plums new depths of depravity

 In the midst of all the economic tales of woe, rising fuel and food prices, housing shortages, unemployment, Peter Robinson is concerned with ‘the erosion of Britishness’ in the partitioned North.
And well he might. For Peter’s brand of Britishness has been taking a battering recently, over that government’s abuse of human rights in Iraq, a situation that will not surprise the majority of people on this island.
A scathing report from the British Joint Human Rights Committee, warns that the use of ‘coercive interrogation techniques’ may have been officially sanctioned despite assurances that troops knew that they were outlawed.
The Joint Committee have evidence that British soldiers are using five ‘techniques – wall standing, hooding, noise subjection, sleep deprivation, and food and water deprivation against suspects arrested and brought into interrogation camps. 
The descriptions of the abuse are uncannily similar to the treatment of the internees in British Army camps in the North and described in the book, The Guinea Pigs, by the late John McGuffin. Though found guilty by the European Courts of Human Rights, the British Government never acknowledged that the abuse of the internees was illegal.
This latest report by the Joint Human Rights Committee, has ruled that evidence given by former armed forces Minister Adam Ingram in 2004, on the use of these illegal techniques, for which he has failed to give an explanation, conflicts with the findings of a subsequent British Army court martial hearing and an internal Ministry of Defence review into the death of an Iraqi hotel worker, Baha Mousa, beaten to death by British soldiers in September 2003. Some British MPs went as far as to claim that they were misled by Ingram and a senior Army General on the use ‘of banned interrogation techniques’.
Ingram, the Armed Forces Minister, and later Minister for Defence, was appointed to the NIO during the late 1990s and is best remembered as the Minister who refused to give protection under the Key Witness Protection Scheme to the Lurgan solicitor, Rosemary Nelson, when she was under threat by members of the RUC and subsequently murdered by a car bomb in 1999. He was later appointed Minister for Victims.
The report of the Joint Human Rights Committee, like many of the British Committees set up over the years in the North is doing precisely in Iraq what its counterparts did here. It is softening up the British public for more revelations and the worst is yet to come, of torture and abuse and gross acts of bestiality against Iraqi detainees.
Days after the British Ministry of Defence had agreed to pay substantial compensation to the father of Baha Mousa, fresh claims have emerged that a 14-year-old boy arrested for stealing food, was whipped, beaten, stripped naked and  forced to engage in lewd acts by British soldiers. Even by the standards of British brutality, which are all too familiar to us in the North, the account of the torture and abuse of children at the quaintly named Camp Breadbasket in Iraq, is shocking.
Nevertheless soldiers took photographs of this depravity, secure in the knowledge that their activities appear to be sanctioned at a high level within the British Government and military establishment, and few if any would face prosecution.
Who on earth would want to be British?

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