Troops shoot dead civilians who posed no threat

BRITISH forces in Iraq have shot and killed civilians, including an eight-year-old girl, in situations in which they were under no apparent threat, according to an Amnesty International report released yesterday.

The report said “many” cases of killings of civilians by British troops have not been investigated. Inquiries launched by the Royal Military Police have been “secretive”, with families given little or no information about their progress.

Amnesty called for a civilian-led investigation into all killings by British forces, with findings made public.

The report was compiled following visits to British-administered southern Iraq in February and March by delegates from the human rights organisation who interviewed families, eye-witnesses, Iraqi police officers and officials of the Coalition Provisional Authority.

Amnesty said it was unable to estimate the total number of deaths which could be attributed to British personnel.

The report also highlighted killings of former members of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime by vigilante groups, who have also targeted alcohol sellers, shops selling immoral music and videos, and members of the Christian minority. No prosecutions have been brought in such cases and some Iraqi police officers have suggested that they regard the killing of former Ba’athists as justified, said the report, Killings of Civilians in Basra and al-Amara.

Amnesty’s British director Kate Allen said: “We are told in the UK that southern Iraq is comparatively safe and secure. Yet Iraqis on the ground have painted a very different picture. People live in fear of armed groups who can strike with seeming impunity.

“Killings by UK forces, in situations where they should not be using lethal force, are examined in secrecy and behind closed doors.

“Instead of the army deciding whether to investigate itself when civilians are killed, there must be a full, impartial and civilian-led investigation into all allegations of killings by UK troops.”

Yesterday’s report details the case of eight-year-old Hanan Saleh Matrud, who was reportedly shot by a soldier of B Company of the 1st Battalion of the King’s Regiment in August last year. An eye-witness told Amnesty’s researchers that, rather than being hit accidentally by a warning shot as the Army has said, Hanan was killed when a soldier aimed at her and fired a shot from around 60 metres.

The report also highlights the death of Ghanem Kadhem Kati, aged 22, who was shot outside his front door while celebrating a family wedding. An RMP investigation is under way, amid reports that British soldiers responding to the sound of bullets being fired into the air fired five shots at him from 50 metres away, despite a neighbour allegedly telling them the shooting was part of the wedding celebrations.

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