Graphic pictures of dead Iraqis, some showing signs of alleged torture at the hands of British troops, were shown at the opening of a public inquiry.
The bodies of the Iraqis — returned after they were taken to a British Camp during the Iraq War — showed apparent signs of torture, including missing eyes and mutilated genitals, the long-awaited Al-Sweady Inquiry heard.
The inquiry, ordered some three years ago, is examining claims that British soldiers murdered and tortured Iraqis after the Battle of Danny Boy in Maysan Province, southern Iraq, in May 2004.
It is alleged that Iraqis were unlawfully killed at Camp Abu Naji (CAN) near Majar-al-Kabir on May 14 and 15 2004, and that five Iraqi detainees were tortured and ill-treated both at CAN and at Shaibah Logistics Base, where they were held for the next four months.
In an opening statement, counsel to the inquiry Jonathan Acton Davis QC said insurgents ambushed the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders near a checkpoint known as Danny Boy on May 14 2004.
“It resulted in many Iraqis being killed and in two British soldiers being wounded.”
Enemy dead would normally have been left on the battlefield, but bodies of 20 Iraqis were taken to CAN, along with nine detainees, to try to identify an insurgent involved in the murder of six British soldiers in 2003, he said.
“It was 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 CAN,” Mr Acton Davis said.
The British MoD has vigorously denied all the allegations, saying any deaths happened on the battlefield.
Mr Acton Davis told inquiry chairman, retired high court judge Thayne Forbes, there was a “stark dispute” between Iraqi and military evidence.
“The Iraqi witnesses say that the evidence points to there having been a number of Iraqi men taken into CAN alive by the British military on May 14 2004 and who were handed back to their families dead the next day.
“The military say that the evidence points to 20 Iraqi dead having been recovered following the battle on May 14 2004, also nine detainees, and that they were taken back to CAN and handed back the following day.” He said although it was agreed that dead Iraqis were handed back by British troops, the numbers of the dead and their identities were not.
Mr Acton Davis said the inquiry will try to establish the circumstances and cause of death of 28 Iraqi men. Graphic photographs of their bodies were shown and he said death certificates had revealed signs of torture in three, including Hamid Al-Sweady.
The inquiry continues today.
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