Wednesday, October 27, 2010

More British torture

Over the weekend, WikiLeaks released 400,000 classified reports on the US's conduct in the war in Iraq, exposing its tolerance of torture by its Iraqi allies. Meanwhile in the UK, there's been an equally explosive torture-related leak, with the leaking of a British Army training manual which instructs interrogators to use Abu Ghraib tactics against prisoners of war:

The British military has been training interrogators in techniques that include threats, sensory deprivation and enforced nakedness in an apparent breach of the Geneva conventions, the Guardian has discovered.

Training materials drawn up secretly in recent years tell interrogators they should aim to provoke humiliation, insecurity, disorientation, exhaustion, anxiety and fear in the prisoners they are questioning, and suggest ways in which this can be achieved.

One PowerPoint training aid created in September 2005 tells trainee military interrogators that prisoners should be stripped before they are questioned. "Get them naked," it says. "Keep them naked if they do not follow commands." Another manual prepared around the same time advises the use of blindfolds to put prisoners under pressure.

A manual prepared in April 2008 suggests that "Cpers" – captured personnel – be kept in conditions of physical discomfort and intimidated.

This is all contrary to international and UK law, and it may constitute a war crime. Unlike the US, though, there's actually some chance that those responsible will be held to account. The British military's treatment of prisoners in Iraq is already the subject of an independent inquiry as well as multiple court cases. While this isn't prosecution (yet), there is a high chance that that treatment will be declared unlawful, putting the acid on the government to prosecute those responsible.