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5 Oct, 2010 14:21

Deleting British army’s Afghan and Iraqi archive “smacks of cover-up” – expert

The UK's Ministry of Defense has admitted that electronic records of its soldiers' day-to-day activities in Afghanistan are routinely wiped from computers.

The disclosure was made at the public inquiry into the death of an Iraqi hotel receptionist, Baha Mousa, who died from multiple injuries while in the custody of British soldiers in 2003.

The investigation is being made more difficult by a lack of official records which could confirm commanders' orders or who was in position at a certain time.

Katherine de Bourcier, the MoD's departmental records officer, said in a statement to the inquiry that, “It is not possible at this stage to provide assurance that there are no longer information gaps in records created on operations.”

“It’s imperative that all the electronic communications, particularly the e-mails between Iraq and the permanent joint headquarters in London, it is absolutely critical that all of those are disclosed – in the two inquiries that are now going on: the first, in the Baha Mousa case, and the second is an inquiry into an alleged massacre following a gun battle in May 2004, the Al-Sweady inquiry. In that case the court’s already heard – emails and photographs on two laptops were thrown by a relevant intelligence officer overboard from a cross-Channel ferry,” recalled Phil Shiner from Public Interest Lawyers, who represents more than 100 Iraqis who are accusing British soldiers of abuse.

“That should not be happening and the Ministry of Defense must disclose all the relevant emails and communications,” he added.

Earlier, Mr Shiner said: “This is absolutely reckless. For them to wipe them all just smacks of cover-up.”

Jim Brann from the “Stop the War Coalition” shares this point of view, adding that “cover-ups” for mishandled operations in Afghanistan may be even worse than those in Iraq.

“The main concern is that there certainly have been several other incidents, and I am aware that there are something like fifty or sixty other outstanding cases in which UK lawyers are currently working on and there is a movement by these lawyers to try to have an all-embracing inquiry into the other allegations,” said Kevin Laue, a human rights lawyer from the 'Redress' organization.