“Shocking and appalling” photographs of British troops allegedly torturing and sexually humiliating Iraqi civilians were revealed yesterday.
The images were produced at a court martial of three British soldiers accused of acts of abuse on Iraqis in an aid camp weeks after the fall of Saddam Hussein. They include forcing detainees to strip and simulate sex acts which were photographed by servicemen.
One of the photographs showed a grimacing Iraqi civilian bound tightly in an army cargo net being suspended from a forklift truck driven by a British soldier. A second depicted a soldier dressed in shorts and a T-shirt standing on the bound and tied body of an Iraqi civilian. Other pictures showed two naked Iraqi men being forced to simulate anal sex and two Iraqis forced to simulate oral sex.
Publication of the photographs echoes the controversy surrounding US troops’ abuse of Iraqi prisoners – which was also captured on film – at the Abu Ghraib jail near Baghdad.
The head of the British Army said last night that he utterly condemned all acts of abuse after he was shown photographs of the alleged abuse by British soldiers. But General Sir Mike Jackson, the Chief of the General Staff, insisted that only a “small number” of the 65,000 servicemen and women who had served in Iraq were alleged to have been involved in such incidents.
Three soldiers, Corporal Daniel Kenyon, 33, and Lance Corporals Mark Cooley, 23, from Newcastle upon Tyne, and Darren Larkin, 30, from Oldham, Greater Manchester, face charges of indecency, assault and sexually humiliating the Iraqis at a storage depot outside the southern city of Basra in May 2003.
Two of the men, from the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, pleaded not guilty to all charges against them. A third pleaded guilty to the single charge against him. They face 10 charges in all. If convicted, they face dismissal in disgrace from the Army and a maximum jail term of 10 years.
L/Cpl Larkin admitted one charge of assaulting an Iraqi civilian, but he denied another charge of forcing two Iraqi males to undress in front of others. In the photographs L/Cpl Larkin is seen wearing his boxer shorts and flip flops while standing on a bound Iraqi prisoner brandishing a camoufage netting pole. William England, counsel for the defence, said: “He is ashamed by this unacceptable and mindless act and knows that his actions have brought shame on his proud regiment, himself and his family.”
Cpl Kenyon faces six charges in total, including two of aiding and abetting a person to force two naked males being detained by British troops to simulate a sex act.
L/Cpl Cooley faces three charges, including tying an unknown male prisoner to a fork-lift truck as well as simulating punching and kicking another unknown male also being detained by the Army.
The three accused based their not guilty pleas on claims that they were ordered to “work the prisoners hard”. Their defence lawyers are expected to argue that their superior officers created a climate in which prisoner abuse was sanctioned.
The court martial was shown a total of 22 colour photographs of the alleged abuse. Lieutenant-Colonel Mick Clapham, the Army’s chief prosecuting counsel, told the hearing: “It cannot be said that these photographs are of incidents that are anything other than shocking and appalling.” Addressing a board of seven army officers and Judge Advocate Michael Hunter, who are to rule on the case, Lt-Col Clapham asked them “not to be emotionally swayed despite the nature of these photographs. I ask for your clinical objectivity.”
The seven officers shook their heads in disbelief as they looked at the pictures handed to them by a military policeman.