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Urinating - I Mean, Liberating - On Someone's Head

Fresh Allegations of Iraqi Prisoner Abuse Emerge
Agence France-Presse

Tuesday 16 August 2005

Former Iraqi prisoners claim in a BBC program to be broadcast today that British troops abused and humiliated them in the aftermath of the US-led invasion in March 2003.

The fresh allegations fuelled suspicion that the Army was following a policy of "systematic abuse and torture" when dealing with Iraqi detainees.

Two brothers, Marhab and As'ad Zaaj-al-Saghir, alleged they were beaten with sticks and denied water and sleep after being arrested in Basra, southern Iraq, following the invasion.

One said a soldier urinated on his head.

BBC's Newsnight said the accounts were similar to numerous other claims made in a confidential report by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

"They lowered me down... while I was tied up, threw me on the floor and hit me with a stick," Marhab Zaaj-al-Saghir told the program.

"You couldn't draw breath afterwards and I lost consciousness.

"I thought they would throw water over us but he got his penis out and urinated on my head," said Zaaj-al-Saghir, alleging that he and his brother were held in an internment camp.

"If I'd had a weapon I'd have killed myself."

The brothers have not made any official complaint and their accounts are confused.

The only corroboration of what they say are forms issued a month later by the US Army, showing they were eventually released from a camp in Umm Qasr, southern Iraq, without charge.

Human rights lawyer Phil Shiner, who is acting for dozens of Iraqis who have made claims against the British Army, condemned the alleged abuses.

"I think there is fairly clear evidence that there is a policy within the British Army in Iraq of systematic abuse and torture," he said.

The Ministry of Defence told the BBC it had investigated 177 complaints against British troops.

Most involved shootings when the Army said it returned fire after being attacked.

The Ministry highlighted its "robust system for investigating incidents involving the death, injury or alleged ill-treatment of civilians on operations."

A spokeswoman also said allegations could not be investigated unless they were reported.

She said anyone with evidence should come forward so it could be looked into.

Seven soldiers were last month charged over the death of an Iraqi hotel receptionist who died in British custody in Basra six months after the invasion.


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