A British newspaper reported Sunday that secret military documents it has seen indicate that nearly 50 British servicemen could face prosecution for murder, assault and other crimes committed in Iraq.
The documents, which informed ministers about police investigations in the cases, indicate that the 50 servicemen include at least 12 British soldiers who face charges of murder, manslaughter or assault in Iraq, The Sunday Telegraph reported. That includes two cases in which Iraqi civilians were allegedly deliberately drowned by British soldiers, the paper said.
On Friday, a military judge and jury in Germany sentenced three British soldiers to prison for abusing Iraqi civilians after a trial that raised comparisons with the Abu Ghraib prison scandal involving U.S. forces.
The jury had convicted the three soldiers last week after a seven-week court-martial at a British base in Germany that focused on the photographs one of the men took of the abuse, which included dangling a detainee from a fork lift.
Cpl. Daniel Kenyon, 34, received 18 months confinement - short of the maximum of two years - while Lance-Cpl. Mark Cooley, 25, received the maximum two-year sentence. Lance-Cpl. Darren Larkin, 30, got five months instead of the maximum six months.
All were dismissed from the service "with disgrace." Under British law, they will probably serve half their sentences and then be released to parole.
In London, the head of the British army, Gen. Mike Jackson, apologized Friday night to the Iraqi people for the abuse by his soldiers, saying he was "appalled and disappointed" by photographs depicting abuse. "The incidents depicted are in direct contradiction of the core values and standards of the British army," Jackson said.
"Nevertheless, in the light of the evidence from this trial I do apologize on behalf of the army to those Iraqis who were abused and to the people of Iraq as a whole," he said.
The general said the case was one of a "small number" dealing with allegations of deliberate abuse against Iraqi citizens. He said there were four cases which "have been or may be referred to prosecuting authorities."
He said that this number should be taken in context as there had been well over 65,000 servicemen and women serving in Iraq.
Jackson said, "Now that this court martial is completed and in view of the nature of this particular incident I will be appointing a senior, experienced officer to assess what lessons we need to learn."
The Sunday Telegraph said the documents it had seen indicate that far more soldiers in Iraq face criminal charges than the general and Britain's Ministry of Defence have indicated.
'Independent' story sparks new inquiry
By Kim Sengupta
26 February 2005
The Ministry of Defence is launching an official investigation into claims by five men that they were the victims of abuse by British soldiers at Camp Bread Basket.
The inquiry was announced after The Independent tracked down five men who claimed to have been those whose mistreatment - including sexual humiliation - was the subject of "trophy photographs'' by troops.
The Royal Military Police has maintained that the reason for the absence of evidence - written or in person - from the victims, the most critical witnesses at the court martial, was that it was unable to trace them.
An MoD spokesman said: "The information in the article is not being ignored. The Special Investigation Branch of the Royal Military Police is reviewing the material and has instigated an investigation which will look at the allegations and act on any substantive evidence.''
A senior defence source said: "We are taking the matter seriously. However, it must be stressed that an extremely thorough inquiry was carried out at many different levels at the time. It is good that if these are the right men that they have come forward. One has to wonder why they've come forward now.''
The alleged victims - Ali Radhi Kassim, 24; Muthannar Jaseem Mahmud, 23; Hassan Kardham Abdulhussein, 23; Ra'aidh Hassan Abdulhussein, 33; and Ra'aidh Attaya Ali, 29, say that no officials had contacted them about the abuse.. This is despite the fact that they all lived only just over a mile from Camp Bread Basket on the outskirts of Basra in southern Iraq.