LONDON Jan 16 A former British military
intelligence officer denied at a public inquiry on Thursday that
he had made death threats and fired shots while questioning
Iraqi detainees in 2004.
He described shouting and using a tent peg to bang on a
table as part of a range of methods to disorient detainees and
maintain the "shock of capture", but denied beating or
physically threatening the Iraqis.
The man, referred to only as "M004" because of his
intelligence background, was giving evidence at the long-running
Al-Sweady inquiry into events during and after a battle in
southern Iraq on May 14, 2004.
It is trying to get to the bottom of allegations by local
Iraqis that British soldiers captured up to 20 men alive and
later killed them at an army camp, and separately that they
mistreated up to nine detainees.
The British soldiers say the 20 died fighting on the
battlefield, and deny any mistreatment.
The Al-Sweady inquiry is one element of a legacy of
allegations dating back to the Iraq war that haunt Britain
almost five years after the British military officially ended
its mission there.
The witness known as M004 had no involvement with the deaths
of any Iraqis during the disputed events of May 14, 2004, so his
evidence was confined to the issue of the treatment of
He said he had carried out "tactical questioning" of all
nine detainees who were brought to the Camp Abu Naji military
base after the battle.
M004 denied that any of the detainees were threatened with
death or beaten by him or by anyone else, and said he would
never have allowed a firearm in the tent, let alone fired one.
He said that since the abuse of Iraqi detainees by U.S.
soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad had become public
earlier that year, it was widely known in Iraq that Western
troops would get into trouble for such practices.
As a result, he said, it was necessary to do things like
shout and bang the tent peg to achieve what was known as
"dislocation of expectation". The idea was to maintain detainees
in a state of uncertainty so they would not feel too comfortable
and clam up.
The witness said that everything he did in the tent was in
accordance with British army rules at the time, although the
rules had changed since then as a result of previous inquiries
into events in Iraq.
"I believe nowadays there is very little you could
physically do without ending up sat in an inquiry," he said.
The inquiry is due to publish its findings at the end of
this year, after hearing evidence from 60 Iraqi witnesses and
about 200 British military witnesses.
Last week, human rights lawyers and campaigners formally
asked the International Criminal Court to investigate
allegations of widespread torture of Iraqi detainees by the
British. It is not known whether the court will take the matter
(firstname.lastname@example.org; editing by Ralph Boulton)