London, Jan.26 : British soldiers serving in Iraq were ill prepared and poorly trained for the violent insurgency that erupted in that country in the summer of 2003.
According to a senior army officer's report, a number of soldiers had behaved disgracefully and treated Iraqi detainees in a deliberate and callous manner, but the abuse was not symptomatic of a general breakdown in discipline in the Army. Brigadier Robert Aitken, director of Army Personnel Strategy, claims in his report that a majority of soldiers and officers have conducted themselves honourably and professionally.
Acting on the report, Britain's Army Chief, General Sir Richard Dannatt, has promised administrative action against those found guilty of prisoner abuse in Iraq, and added that some of the accused could even be dismissed from the armed services.
General Dannatt's warning follows the revelation of an Iraqi hotel receptionist, Baha Musa, 26, dying after suffering 93 injuries while being held in detention for 36 hours by soldiers from the Queen's Lancashire Regiment.
"This case is not closed and I am not satisfied or comfortable that there are people potentially who have done wrong things that they think they have got away with it - I am afraid that is not the case," The Telegraph quoted General Dannatt, as saying. rigadier Aitken says that the finger of blame should be directed higher up the chain of command for what happened over a period of months in 2003 and early 2004.
Commissioned in 2005 by General Sir Mike Jackson, then Chief of the General Staff, to discover whether acts of abuse were an endemic part of prisoner-handling in that period, Brigadier Aitken said that the ban on five interrogation techniques imposed in 1972 - hooding, sleep deprivation, subjection to noise, wall-standing in a stress position and withholding of food and drink - appeared to have been forgotten.
Musa and the eight other Iraqi detainees were double-hooded with hessian sacks, forced to stand with their knees bent and arms outstretched, and deprived of sleep.
Colonel Daoud Musa, the father of Baha Musa, denounced the report's main finding that only a small number of individual soldiers were to blame for the abuse.
"As a senior officer in the Iraqi Army, I am clear that these terrible actions could not have taken place without support from senior officers within the British Army. They either knew, or ought to have known, what was happening . . . I hold them to account for what happened to my son," he said.
Measures to ensure abuse cases never reoccur include an order that detainees can be handcuffed only in front of the body. Brigadier Aitken said that some soldiers and commanders had failed to live up to the Army's core values of selfless commitment, courage, discipline, integrity, loyalty and respect for others.