A Ministry of Defence inquiry has been launched after an official assessing Iraqi detainees’ abuse allegations resigned because her colleagues “just weren’t interested” in justice.
Louise Thomas, a former Wren and police officer, worked for six months with the Iraq Historic Allegations team (IHAT) assessing the treatment of former prisoners by British soldiers in Basra.
She alleges that abuse including beatings and extreme sleep deprivation were recorded in more than 1,600 hours of footage, but that her colleagues had commented “Who cares, they’re terrorists?” and “They’re only bombers” when she voiced concern.
As a result, she believes the inquiry is a “whitewash”, she told The Guardian, and alleges that more potentially incriminating footage was deliberately kept from IHAT.
“I saw a really dark side of the British army,” Ms Thomas said. “The videos showed really quite terrible abuses. But some of the IHAT investigators just weren’t interested.”
“They would laugh at me, because I was interested and concerned. They would say ‘Here comes Miss Marple’ when I came by.”
The alleged videos were recorded at an interrogation centre in Basra operated by the Joint Forward Interrogation Team (JFIT), in the South-East of Iraq, between March 2003 and and December 2008.
In November 2010 JFIT was described in the high court by lawyers for the prisoners as “Britain’s Abu Ghraib”.
The MoD said any claims of inappropriate behaviour or lack of attention would be fully investigated.
A spokesman said: “All of these allegations of abuse are known to the Ministry of Defence and Iraq Historical Allegations Team (IHAT) which is why the independent IHAT is already investigating them.
“The MoD has cooperated fully, including the provision of all known evidence.
“We are confident in the IHAT’s abilities and following the outcome of their investigations, action will be considered against individuals where appropriate. Any criticisms about IHAT itself are for the organisation to answer.”
Some of the alleged footage from the JFIT interrogations have already been made public, with graphic scenes of death threats, sensory deprivation, and prisoner complaints of having nothing to eat.
In one video, an interrogator allegedly tells a prisoner who complains he is starving: “Good, I’m f—— glad. I hope you die. I hope your kids die.”
Lawyers for the former prisoners have said that IHAT lacks indepedence from the MoD and the military, and has failed to bring any charges two years after it was established.