‘Iraqis ill-treatment by British troops wasn’t done accidentally, came from orders from high up’
Four Iraqi men won damages against Britain's Defence Ministry over their ill-treatment by soldiers during the Iraq War.
The High Court's ruling could pave the way for 600 more claims against Britain over human rights abuses.
RT: Lawyers say these four test-cases could pave the way for hundreds more claims. Could this open up a can of worms for the British Ministry of Defence?
Brian Becker: Indeed, it could. I think it is an extremely important case. It’s really not hundreds; there are hundreds of claims. 200+ have already been settled for monetary compensation by the British government. When you think about it, what the British were doing in Basra and elsewhere, when they were rounding up, mass arresting and then torturing Iraqis on suspicion they might be in some ways involved either with the Ba'athist army or parts of the armed resistance or civil resistance - that was replicated tens of thousands of times in the case of the American presence which was far greater throughout Iraq.
I have friends who are now anti-war veterans from the US army and the marines. All they did was go around, bust down doors, arrest the men in the family, put hoods over their head, subject them to extreme sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, stress positions. They turned against the war because they themselves recognized that as torturers they resembled terrorists. And they didn’t want to go there for that. This has got big implications, not just for the UK, but I would say, especially in the US where there has been no accountability for these grievous crimes against humanity. The UK government, the US government, said we are above the law; we don’t have to comply with the Geneva Conventions. This ruling says – yes, you do.
RT: The High Court ruled the Ministry of Defence breached the Geneva Conventions and the 1998 Human Rights Act through unlawful detentions. Who do you think should bear responsibility for that?
BB: I think we know from the US that the orders to violate the Geneva Conventions - in fact, to exempt the country from the Geneva Conventions - came from the very top of the US political establishment. It came from George W. Bush. I believe, it also came from the Ministry of Defence top officials in the UK with the wink and nod or complicit agreement of the Tony Blair government. Who is really being charged? Who should be charged? I would say it is the top officials of these wars. These wars in and of themselves constituted not only a war of aggression, which is a crime against peace, the greatest crime, according to the Nuremberg trials, but there were also crimes against humanity, and they were done systematically, it was not accidental, it was not done incidentally by soldiers in the field. This came from orders from high up.
RT: Could the risk of prosecution discourage the British military from getting involved in future overseas conflicts? And could it make it harder for soldiers to do their jobs?
BB: The soldier’s job should not be to violate people’s rights. It should not be to commit war crimes or crimes against humanity. If those are the soldier’s jobs, then yes, the UK should never again do it. Will the UK government be held accountable? Will it be a deterrent? It is the only way for accountability to work, for deterrence to work as they show that there will be punishment, that there will be accountability for grievous crimes against humanity. Here we have in the US and in the UN and with the UK government a system set up whereby all of the targeted entities by those countries, they come to The Hague, they go to the International Criminal Court. But the perpetrators of the aggression, of the occupation, of the torture, of the violation of the Geneva Conventions, those who have really done this, they exempt themselves, they immunize themselves from prosecution. There shouldn’t just be civil penalties. There should be war crime trials for Tony Blair and those in the UK government and military, and likewise for Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld…