|British soldiers handed over brutalized Iraqi bodies missing eyes and genitals, inquiry hears
Signs of torture and mutilation had been noticed on bodies of Iraqis handed to their families by British troops, an inquiry in London has been told. Eyes were missing in some bodies, while in others the genitals had been slashed.
The Al-Sweady inquiry hard that injured insurgents were taken back to an army camp after a brutal battle and tortured or killed, the Independent reported. The claims that have been vigorously contested by the British military.
Graphic photographs of 20 dead Iraqis, the youngest just 14, were shown as Jonathan Acton Davis QC, counsel to the inquiry, opened what is expected to a year-long hearing. The disturbing images showed the blood-soaked and contorted bodies of young men, many with severe facial injuries. Some appeared to be clad in uniforms while others were wearing civilian clothing, the paper reports.
Relatives told the inquiry team that a number of the corpses showed signs of fresh blood when they were returned the day after the battle while some were missing eyes or had injured or severed genitals.
After three years of investigations costing £15 million, the inquiry opened on Monday just weeks before the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.
The inquiry will examine allegations British soldiers killed detainees after a fire fight with Shia insurgents, which became known as the battle of Danny Boy, near Majar al-Kabir in May 2004. It will also look into claims five detainees were ill treated both at Camp Abu Naji and later at a detention facility at Shaibah Logistics Base over a period of four months.
“The claim relates to events which began on May 14 2004, when Iraqi insurgents ambushed vehicles belonging to the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders near to a permanent vehicle checkpoint known as Danny Boy which was some 5km north-east of Majar al-Kabir on route six in Iraq,” Mr Acton Davis said, the Independent reports.
“A fierce battle ensued which involved not only the Argylls but also soldiers from The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment. It resulted in many Iraqis being killed and in two British soldiers being wounded.”
But, he explained, their remained a “stark dispute” as to what happened in the following 24 hours.
“It is the claimants' case that not all of the 20 died on the battlefield, and that at least one of them was murdered by a British soldier after he had been returned alive to Camp Abu Naji,” the barrister said.
The military, however, insists the 20 were already dead but brought into the camp – alongside nine detainees - as it was believed that one of them had been among those responsible for the death of six Royal Military Police soldiers killed by a mob in the notoriously lawless town in Maysan north of Basra eleven months earlier.
“In the ordinary course of events the enemy dead would have been left on the battle field but an order was given to identify the dead to see if there was amongst them an individual who may have been involved in the murder of six British soldiers in 2003,” the QC said.
Mr Acton Davis explained how the inquiry team had tracked down millions of documents to identify thousands that were relevant to their inquiry as well as identify 60 Iraqi witnesses and almost 200 military personnel who will give evidence before chairman Sir Thayne Forbes.
Among those documents, he revealed were a raft of Iraqi death certificates which listed a catalogue of injuries including multiple bullet wounds and missing body parts.
The Iraqi doctors assessed that three of the dead – including 19-year-old Hamid Al Sweady after whom the inquiry is named – showed signs of torture.