MoD may release photos of abused IraqisBy Kim Sengupta and Marie Woolf Chief Political Correspondent 16 June 2004
The shocking photographs of abuse of Iraqi prisoners that led to charges against British troops could become public during their court martial.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is considering releasing the images, which are said to show Iraqi inmates being forced to perform sexual acts on each other and a naked prisoner, bound and gagged, suspended in a net from a forklift truck. The photographs, allegedly taken as "trophy" pictures, form the basis for prosecution allegations against the soldiers.
The court martial is expected to take place at Celle, near Hamburg in Germany, where the accused, from the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, are based. Military chiefs say that there will be as much transparency as possible during the proceedings, which will be held in public, and allowing publication of the photographs has "certainly not been ruled out".
MPs said yesterday that it was vital that the proceedings were open and "transparent" and called for all 75 cases under investigation by the military authorities to be resolved swiftly.
But Paul Keetch, the Liberal Democrat defence spokesman, called for the identity of the abused Iraqis to be concealed. "We need transparency but we need to protect the identity of these Iraqis subjected to such humiliation," he said. "We would want their faces concealed if photos are published."
The Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, said three further cases had been referred to the Army Prosecuting Authority (APA) and "they are actively being considered". It is believed that the Royal Military Police has nearly completed its inquiries into another four cases including that of Baha Moussa, a hotel receptionist who died of injuries after being arrested by soldiers from the Queen's Lancashire Regiment. Those reports will be handed over to the head of the APA, Maj-Gen David Howell, in the near future. According to defence sources, the numbers of prosecutions "may reach double figures."
Lord Goldsmith confirmed on Monday that 75 investigations had been launched into allegations of mistreatment by British forces, including 36 involving deaths of Iraqis. The MoD said yesterday there were no outstanding allegations still to be investigated.
Alan Simpson, the Labour secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on War and the Law, said "huge questions" remained about why the cases had taken so long to investigate. "The speed with which the Government was able to investigate the mocked-up photo- graphs falsely sold to the Daily Mirror begs the question of why there have been such extensive delays on investigating allegations of abuse, brutality and humiliation in Iraq," he said.
The fusiliers charged - Fusilier Gary Bartlam, 18, who allegedly took the film to be developed at a processing shop at Tamworth, Staffordshire, Cpl Daniel Kenyon, L/Cpl Mark Cooley and a fourth man who has not yet been identified - remain with their regiment. The Army has rejected demands that they should be suspended until their trial. Lt-Col David Paterson, the commanding officer of the regiment, has the power to dismiss charges or to pass it on to the APA. He has chosen the latter course. Four other members of the 1st Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, were questioned in connection with the photographs, but it is thought unlikely they will face prosecution.
The MoD refused yesterday to comment on suggestions that some of the soldiers would appear as prosecution witnesses at the court martial.
One case is that of Abd al- Jubba Mousa, a 53-year-old Basra headteacher, who died after being arrested and allegedly beaten with rifle butts by soldiers of the Black Watch in May last year. Other cases are Ather Karen al-Mowafakia, who died in April, and Ahmad Jabber Kareem and Said Shabram who died in May.