The secret interrogation centre, described as the UK’s Abu Ghraib, is situated somewhere near Basra and operated by the Joint Forces Interrogation Team (JFIT).
Evidence of systematic and brutal mistreatment of the prisoners by British military personnel emerged during the proceedings. The court was told of prisoners being starved, deprived of sleep, subjected to sensory depravation and threatened with execution. Claims were also made of some inmates being beaten up and forced to kneel in difficult positions for up to 30 hours while electric shocks were used to inflict pain on others. Several inmates say they were put through sexual humiliation by female soldiers.
One of the videos are of an Iraqi man who was ‘questioned’ in April 2007. He is standing to attention while two soldiers yell abuse at him and threaten him with execution. They ignore his complaints of sleep depravation and that he has had nothing to eat or drink for two days. At the end of each session, he is forced to don a pair of blackened goggles, ear muffs are placed over his head, and he is ordered to place the palms of his hands together so that a guard can grasp his thumbs to lead him away.
After viewing the video, Dr Brian Fine, of the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, said he got the impression that the soldiers were trying to obtain information by “terrifying the person they were interrogating” and the purpose of this type of interrogation was to “induce terror and fear and a feeling of helplessness and induce vulnerability” in the detainee.
“There is good evidence that in the immediate phase the reliability of any information that emerges from these kinds of techniques is rather dubious”, he said.
Lawyers of the former detainees, are appealing for a judicial review of the Defence Secretary’s refusal to hold a public investigation into British-controlled detention facilities in Iraq. They insist a public inquiry is essential to determine the extent of the mistreatment and to discover where the ultimate responsibility lies for decisions concerning the use of such techniques.
Michael Fordham QC, for the former detainees, said: “There are credible allegations of serious, inhumane practices across a whole range of dates and facilities concerning British military detention in Iraq.”
Referring to the prison which became famous for the torture carried out by US soldiers, Fordham asked: “Is this Britain's Abu Ghraib?”
So far the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is resisting a public inquiry. A MoD spokesman said: “These remain unproven allegations of mistreatment. The MoD takes all allegations seriously and has already set up the dedicated Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) to investigate them. The IHAT is the most effective way of investigating these unproven allegations rather than a costly public inquiry.”
But the lawyers representing the Iraqi victims say the IHAT lacks the required independence to conduct a proper investigation.
Phil Shiner, representing the Iraqis, said: “It is nonsense to suggest, as the MoD does, it is a case of just a few bad apples. That is absolutely not the case. There are very serious allegations related to very troubling systemic abuse.”
“People at the highest level knew what was going on, it goes up to the very highest level and is not something that just happened after we went into Iraq.”