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“Shocking and appalling” photographs of British troops allegedly torturing and sexually humiliating Iraqi civilians were revealed yesterday.
The images were produced at a court martial of three British soldiers accused of acts of abuse on Iraqis in an aid camp weeks after the fall of Saddam Hussein. They include forcing detainees to strip and simulate sex acts which were photographed by servicemen.
One of the photographs showed a grimacing Iraqi civilian bound tightly in an army cargo net being suspended from a forklift truck driven by a British soldier. A second depicted a soldier dressed in shorts and a T-shirt standing on the bound and tied body of an Iraqi civilian. Other pictures showed two naked Iraqi men being forced to simulate anal sex and two Iraqis forced to simulate oral sex.
Publication of the photographs echoes the controversy surrounding US troops’ abuse of Iraqi prisoners–which was also captured on film–at the Abu Ghraib jail near Baghdad.
The head of the British Army said last night that he utterly condemned all acts of abuse after he was shown photographs of the alleged abuse by British soldiers. But General Sir Mike Jackson, the Chief of the General Staff, insisted that only a “small number” of the 65,000 servicemen and women who had served in Iraq were alleged to have been involved in such incidents.
Three soldiers, Corporal Daniel Kenyon, 33, and Lance Corporals Mark Cooley, 23, from Newcastle upon Tyne, and Darren Larkin, 30, from Oldham, Greater Manchester, face charges of indecency, assault and sexually humiliating the Iraqis at a storage depot outside the southern city of Basra in May 2003.
Two of the men, from the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, pleaded not guilty to all charges against them. A third pleaded guilty to the single charge against him. They face 10 charges in all. If convicted, they face dismissal in disgrace from the Army and a maximum jail term of 10 years.
L/Cpl Larkin admitted one charge of assaulting an Iraqi civilian, but he denied another charge of forcing two Iraqi males to undress in front of others. In the photographs L/Cpl Larkin is seen wearing his boxer shorts and flip flops while standing on a bound Iraqi prisoner brandishing a camoufage netting pole. William England, counsel for the defence, said: “He is ashamed by this unacceptable and mindless act and knows that his actions have brought shame on his proud regiment, himself and his family.”
Cpl Kenyon faces six charges in total, including two of aiding and abetting a person to force two naked males being detained by British troops to simulate a sex act.
L/Cpl Cooley faces three charges, including tying an unknown male prisoner to a fork-lift truck as well as simulating punching and kicking another unknown male also being detained by the Army.
The three accused based their not guilty pleas on claims that they were ordered to “work the prisoners hard”. Their defence lawyers are expected to argue that their superior officers created a climate in which prisoner abuse was sanctioned.
The court martial was shown a total of 22 colour photographs of the alleged abuse. Lieutenant-Colonel Mick Clapham, the Army’s chief prosecuting counsel, told the hearing: “It cannot be said that these photographs are of incidents that are anything other than shocking and appalling.” Addressing a board of seven army officers and Judge Advocate Michael Hunter, who are to rule on the case, Lt-Col Clapham asked them “not to be emotionally swayed despite the nature of these photographs. I ask for your clinical objectivity.”
The seven officers shook their heads in disbelief as they looked at the pictures handed to them by a military policeman.
Lt Col Clapham told the court martial that the incidents had occurred when the accused were part of an attachment of British soldiers at the Army’s Bread Basket supply camp half a mile west of Basra, which was full of food and humanitarian aid for the Iraqis. “Unfortunately the Bread Basket Camp had a looting problem. It was being raided by looters every night so measures were taken to deal with the situation,” Lt-Col Clapham said. The court martial heard how the commander of the camp, Major Dan Taylor, launched a controversial operation, code-named Ali Baba, in an attempt to round up and detain the looters and “work them hard”. “There was a difficulty with Major Taylor’s order. He hoped it would be a deterrent,” Lt-Col Clapham said.
He added that the Major’s order to “work the prisoners hard” was not in accordance with humanitarian laws and appears to have been in breach of Article 4 of the Geneva Convention.
Lt-Col Clapham said, however, that senior officers had decided not to take legal action against the Major. Lt-Col Clapham said: “If the defendants had done no more than fulfil the order that was given to them they would not be facing a court martial today.”
Lt-Col Clapham said the British troops at Camp Bread Basket were ordered to parade at 6am on the morning of 15 May 2003 dressed in shorts and T-shirts because of the heat. Armed with SA-80 rifles and camouflage net poles as weapons, they were ordered to police the perimeter of the camp and to capture and detain looters. “The Iraqi civilians were made to carry back the stores they had looted,” Lt-Col Clapham said. “They were all assembled near the main gate of the camp and then broken up into groups of three or four and taken away.”
He described how the senior NCO accused, Cpl Daniel Kenyon, was given charge of three or four Iraqi civilians who were taken to a vast warehouse in a remote corner of the camp to be “worked hard”.
Photographs of the detained Iraqi civilians showed them being taken on a forced run while carrying crates of milk powder over their heads as part of an alleged punishment. “It was after that that the incidents occurred,” Lt-Col Clapham said.
Cpl Kenyon is charged with failing to report the incidents of abuse to senior officers and of aiding and abetting those who carried out the acts.
The three accused were all identified on the photographs presented as evidence to the court martial: L/Cpl Cooley in a statement to military police admitted driving the fork lift truck; L/Cpl Larkin was depicted standing, dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, on a bound Iraqi civilian; and Cpl Kenyon was shown as present in one of the other photographs.
Two other pictures showed L/Cpl Cooley pretending to punch and kick an Iraqi civilian lying bound in a net on the ground. L/Cpl Cooley did not deny that he was identified in the photograph as the perpetrator.
The court heard how the photographs later came to the notice of police in Britain.
In a written statement read out to the court martial a woman shop assistant at a photographic store in Tamworth, Staffordshire, described how a 20-year-old fusilier had given her a film of his tour of duty in Iraq to process. She said that when the photographs were developed she was disturbed by their contents. “He seemed a very well-mannered man but when I saw the photographs I called the police,” her statement said. The fusilier was arrested when he arrived to collect the photographs.
The fusilier was convicted of a number of charges by a court martial last week.
The case continues today.
1 & 2: L/Cpl Mark Cooley is charged with two counts of conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline contrary to section 69 of the Army Act 1955.
The particulars of the first offence are that “on 15 May 2003 he simulated punching an unknown male, being detained by British forces while the simulated punch was photographed”.
The particulars of the second offence are that “on or about 15 May 2003 he simulated kicking an unknown male, being detained by British forces while the simulated kick was photographed”.
3: L/Cpl Darren Larkin and Cpl Daniel Kenyon are charged with committing a civil offence contrary to section 70 of the Army Act 1955, that is to say battery contrary to section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988.
The particulars are that L/Cpl Larkin, on or about 15 May 2003, assaulted an unknown male by beating him. He pleaded guilty to this offence. Cpl Kenyon is charged with aiding and abetting Larkin to commit the offence.
4: L/Cpl Cooley is also charged with disgraceful conduct of a cruel kind contrary to section 66 of the Army Act 1955. The particulars are that “on or about 15 May 2003, [he] placed an unknown male, being detained by British forces and whose hands were tied, on the forks of a forklift truck, raised the forks and drove the forklift truck”.
5: Cpl Kenyon is charged with conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline contrary to section 69 of the Army Act 1955.
The particulars are that, “on or about 15 May 2003, [he] failed to report that soldiers under his command had caused an unknown male, being detained by British forces and whose hands were tied, to be on the raised forks of a forklift truck”.
6: L/Cpl Larkin and Cpl Kenyon are charged with disgraceful conduct of an indecent kind contrary to section 66 of the Army Act 1955. The particulars are that L/Cpl Larkin, “on or about 15 May 2003, forced two unknown males, being detained by British forces, to undress in front of others”. Cpl Kenyon is charged with aiding and abetting him to commit the offence.
7: Cpl Kenyon is charged with disgraceful conduct of an indecent kind contrary to section 66 of the Army Act 1955. The particulars are that, on or about 15 May 2003, he “aided and abetted a person or persons unknown to force two unknown naked males, being detained by British forces, to simulate a sexual act”.
8: Cpl Kenyon is charged with disgraceful conduct of an indecent kind contrary to section 66 of the Army Act 1955, in that, on or about 15 May 2003, and on an occasion other than that of the seventh charge, he “aided and abetted a person or persons unknown to force two unknown naked males, being detained by British forces, to simulate a sexual act”.
9: Cpl Kenyon is also charged with conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline contrary to section 69 of the Army Act 1955 in that, “on or about 15 May 2003, he failed to report that soldiers under his command had forced two unknown naked males, being detained by British forces, to simulate an act of oral sex”.
This is an alternative to charges 6, 7 and 8.