British war crimes

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British war crimes are acts that have breached the laws of war, committed by the armed forces of the United Kingdom, since the establishment of the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 to the present day, during armed conflict. Actions labeled as war crimes range from independent actions of individual soldiers, such as the abuse of prisoners during the Iraq War, to controversial and debated officially sanctioned actions such as the bombing of Dresden in 1945.

War crimes in the modern sense are acts committed during an armed conflict that violates the laws and customs of war (established by the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907), or acts that are grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol I and Additional Protocol II.[1] The Fourth Geneva Convention extends the protection of civilians and prisoners of war during military occupation, even in the case where there is no armed resistance, for the period of one year after the end of hostilities, although the occupying power should be bound to several provisions of the convention as long as "such Power exercises the functions of government in such territory."[2][3]

"The Manual of the Law of Armed Conflict" published by the UK Ministry of Defence[4] utilizes the 1945 definition from the Nuremberg Charter, which defines a war crime as "Violations of the laws or customs of war. Such violations shall include, but not be limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave labour or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity."[1] The manual also notes that "violations of the 1949 Geneva Conventions not amounting to 'grave breaches' are also war crimes." The 2004 Laws of Armed Combat Manual clarifies "Serious violations of the law of armed conflict, other than those listed as grave breaches in the [1949 Geneva] Conventions or [the 1977 Additional Protocol I], remain war crimes and punishable as such. A distinction must be drawn between crimes established by treaty or convention and crimes under customary international law. Treaty crimes only bind parties to the treaty in question, whereas customary international law is binding on all states. Many treaty crimes are merely codifications of customary law and to that extent binding on all states, even those that are not parties." It further notes that "A person is normally only guilty of a war crime if he commits it with intent and knowledge."[5]

Boxer Rebellion[edit]

During the Boxer Rebellion, including the aftermath of the Battle of Peking, troops from Britain committed war crimes while stationed in China. Author Bertram Lenox Simpson, who was in China at the time, reported that he came across "a whole company of savage-looking British and Indian troops" molesting a group of female converts "green-white with fear" while a lady missionary vainly tried to beat them off with an umbrella. British leaders and generals pointed out that looting by troops "was carried on in the most orderly manner and the houses of all those known to be friendly were protected." However, one British officer[who?] noted, "that it is one of the unwritten laws of war that a city which does not surrender at the last and is taken by storm is looted."[this quote needs a citation] For the rest of 1900-1901, the British held loot auctions in front everyday except Sunday in front of the main-gate to the British Legation at Peking.[this quote needs a citation] Many foreigners, including Sir Claude Maxwell MacDonald and Lady Ethel MacDonald, George Ernest Morrison of The Times, and American diplomat Herbert G. Squiers were active bidders among the crowd.[this quote needs a citation] Many of the things stolen from China by British and foreign forces ended up winding back to Europe.[6][7]

India[edit]

The British Colonialisation of India is regarded by many as a war between a highly superior Western Power and the many smaller kingdoms of the Indian Subcontinent. One that went on till the time the British finally left the subcontinent in 1947. One by one it defeated them all and some it pressured into accepting the British takeover with the threat of losing their kingdoms if they failed to oblige. During this time the British imposed themselves on the weaker people of what is now India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and looted and pillaged the region of its extraordinary wealth. Before the arrival of the British, India was known far and wide as the richest civilisation of the world. To achieve their goal of stealing India's wealth they carried out unspeakable human rights violations with rapes, beatings, torture and slavery widespread all the while holding a tight control of the media. Much of what went on was unreported to the press. Today, this part of British history is also carefully hidden from British school history curriculums and the right winged British media. The story of benign imperialism, whose overriding purpose was not to seize land, labour and commodities but to teach the natives English, table manners and double-entry book-keeping, is a myth that has been carefully propagated by the rightwing press. The fact that the British victory over Indian kingdoms was as a result of wars has been denied to avoid the classifications of these crimes to be listed as war crimes.

Among several atrocities the most high profile ones are:

Bengal Famine[edit]

The British manufactured the 1943 Bengal Famine killing 3 Million Indians. This was one of the worst mass killings of any civilisation in the history of the world. Several sources detail that the British government continued to export rice from Bengal to be utilized by British troops during the world war two effort, this played a significant role in causing the famine and death of three million Bengalis. Churchill saw this as necessary as part of the war effort, and was negligent and responsible for these deaths. He was never tried for these crimes and widely regarded as the greatest British figure to have ever lived.

Jallianwala Bagh massacre[edit]

On April 13, 1919, thousands of peaceful protesters defied a government order and demonstrated against British rule in Amritsar, India. Men, women, and children all descended on the walled Jallianwala Gardens, hoping to make their voices heard. What happened next was one of the lowest points in British history.

At 4.30pm, troops blocked the exits to the Garden and opened fire on the crowd. They kept firing until they ran out of ammunition. In the space of ten minutes, they killed between 379 and 1,000 protesters and injured another 1,100. A stampede caused a lethal crush by the blocked exits. Many of the protesters jumped into a deep well in the park fearing getting shot, only never to return. Over 100 women and children who looked for safety in a well drowned. Some were pushed into the well by the British Soldiers. Rifle fire tore the rest to shreds. Even today, the bullet marks are seen on the walls of the park.

When the news reached London, Parliament was so shocked it recalled the man who ordered the massacre, Brigadier Reginald Dyer. In a depressing twist of fate, the British public labeled him a hero and raised £26,000 (around $900,000 in today’s money[citation needed]) for “the man who saved India.” He died peacefully, convinced right to the end that his mindless slaughter had been morally justifiable.

The incident left a permanent scar on Indo-British relations and was the prelude to Mahatma Gandhi’s nonco-operation movement of 1920–22.[8] [9] [10] [11]

Boer War[edit]

During the Second Boer War, concentration camps were established initially for use by refugees.[12] As part of the strategy to defeat the Boers, farms were destroyed including the systematic destruction of crops and slaughtering of livestock (Pakenham, 1979, p.440), the burning down of homesteads, poisoning of wells and salting of fields. This was to prevent the Boers from resupplying from a home base. 45 tented camps were created for Boers and 64 for black Africans.[clarification needed] Tens of thousands of women and children were forcibly moved into the concentration camps via open cattle trucks in freezing rain during winter, without being given adequate food and water.[12] 107,000 people were interned in the camps. Of which, 27,927 Boers died along with an unknown number of black Africans[13]

World War I[edit]

Baralong incidents[edit]

Main article: Baralong incidents

On 19 August 1915, the German submarine U-27 was sunk by the Q-ship HMS Baralong. All German survivors were summarily executed by Baralong´s crew on the orders of Lieutenant Godfrey Herbert, the captain of the ship. The shooting was reported to the media by American citizens who were on board the Nicosia, a British freighter loaded with war supplies, which was stopped by U-27 just minutes before the incident.[14]

On 24 September, Baralong destroyed U-41, which was in the process of sinking the cargo ship Urbino. According to Karl Goetz, the submarine's commander, Baralong continued to fly the U.S. flag after firing on U-41 and then rammed the lifeboat - carrying the German survivors - sinking it.[15]

Chemical weapons in warfare[edit]

The use of poison gas, as a weapon, was introduced by Imperial Germany on 31 January 1915 during the Battle of Bolimov. Later, all major belligerents (including the United Kingdom) subsequently employed similar weapons. The use of chemical weapons in warfare was in direct violation of the 1899 Hague Declaration Concerning Asphyxiating Gases and the 1907 Hague Convention on Land Warfare, which prohibited their use.[16][17]

Irish War of Independence[edit]

On 9 August 1920, the British Parliament passed the Restoration of Order in Ireland Act during the Anglo-Irish War. It replaced the trial by jury by courts-martial by regulation for those areas in Ireland where IRA activity was prevalent.[18] To combat the Irish Republican Army, Winston Churchill, then UK Secretary of State for War, suggested recruiting World War I veterans to boost the strength of the Royal Irish Constabulary . Lloyd George agreed and advertisements were placed in newspapers. The recruits were formed into groups of temporary constables who became known as the Black and Tans, so called because of their mixture of British Army and police uniforms. Veterans who had held officers rank were formed into the Auxiliary Division, who were better paid and received better supplies.[citation needed]

Kevin Barry, an 18-year-old medical student and Irish Republican Army paramilitary, was captured following a gun battle between IRA paramilitaries and British soldiers, in which three British soldiers were killed.[19] Following his capture, Barry was interrogated and allegedly subjected to violence and threats of murder by British soldiers.[19] The British Government denied POW status to IRA paramilitaries and Barry was reportedly interrogated under torture by British servicemen without access to a solicitor or civilian constable. He refused to name the others present at the ambush, and was subsequently charged and convicted of first degree murder by a military tribunal on 28 October 1919, and executed by hanging on 1 November 1919.[20] John Ainsworth, author of Kevin Barry, the Incident at Monk's bakery and the Making of an Irish Republican Legend, has pointed out that Barry had been captured by the British not as a uniformed soldier but disguised as a civilian and in possession of flat-nosed "Dum-dum" bullets, in contravention of the Hague Convention of 1899.[21]

Bloody Sunday began when Michael Collins' assassin squad, known as "The Twelve Apostles", assassinated 13 British intelligence agents, including most of the "Cairo Gang". That same afternoon, British security forces opened fire on a crowd attending a Gaelic football match in Croke Park, killing 14 civilians.[22]

World War II[edit]

Crimes against enemy combatants, civilians, and civilian property[edit]

During the Burma Campaign, there are recorded instances of British troops removing gold teeth from dead Japanese troops and displaying Japanese skulls as trophies.[23]

In violation of the Hague Conventions, British line of communication troops conducted small scale looting in the French towns of Bayeux and Caen, following their liberation.[24] On 21 April 1945, British soldiers randomly selected and burned two cottages in Seedorf, Germany, in reprisal against local civilians who had hidden German soldiers in their cellars.[25] Historian Sean Longden claims that violence against German prisoners and civilians who refused to cooperate with the British army "could be ignored or made light of".[26]

On 23 May 1945, a number of British soldiers searching for Heinrich Himmler held Prince Ferdinand of Holstein, along with his family and staff, at gunpoint in the courtyard of Glücksburg Castle, in Schleswig-Holstein. The troops then proceeded to loot the castle, stealing jewellery; some of which, was later recovered. The prince alleged that these soldiers also broke opem 38 coffins in the castle's mausoleum.[27]

An MI19 prisoner of war facility, known as the "London Cage", was utilised during and immediately after the war. This facility has been the subject of allegations of torture.[28] The Bad Nenndorf interrogation centre, in occupied Germany, managed by the Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Centre, was the subject of an official inquiry in 1947. It found that there was "mental and physical torture during the interrogations" and that "personal property of the prisoners were stolen".[29]

Rapes[edit]

Rape took place during the British advance towards Germany.[30] During late 1944, with the army based across Belgium and the Netherlands, soldiers were billeted with local families or befriended them. In December 1944, it came to the attention of the authorities that there was a "rise of indecency with children" where abusers had exploited the "atmosphere of trust" that had been created with local families. While the army "attempted to investigate allegations, and some men were convicted, it was an issue that received little publicity."[26] Rape also occurred once British forces had entered Germany.[30] Many rapes were the result of alcohol or post-traumatic stress, but there were also instances of premeditated attacks.[26] For example, on a single day in April 1945, three women in Neustadt am Rübenberge were raped.[30] In the village of Oyle, near Nienburg, two soldiers attempted to coerce two girls into a nearby wood. When they refused, one was grabbed and dragged into the woods. When she began to scream, in according to Longden, "one of the soldiers pulled a gun to silence her. Whether intentionally or in error the gun went off hitting her in the throat and killing her."[26]

Sean Longden highlights that "Some officers failed to treat reports of rape with gravity." He provides the example of a medic, who had a rape reported to him. In cooperation with the Royal Military Police, they were able to track down and apprehend the perpetrators who were then identified by the victim. When the two culprits "were taken before their CO. His response was alarming. He insisted since the men were going on leave no action could be taken and that his word was final."[26]

Unrestricted submarine warfare[edit]

On 4 May 1940, in response to Germany's intensive unrestricted submarine warfare, during the Battle of the Atlantic and its invasion of Denmark and Norway, the Royal Navy conducted its own unrestricted submarine campaign. The Admiralty announced that all vessels in the Skagerrak, were to be sunk on sight without warning. This was contrary to the terms of the Second London Naval Treaty.[31][32]

HMS Torbay incident[edit]

In July 1941, the submarine HMS Torbay (under the command of Anthony Miers) was based in the Mediterranean where it sank several German ships. On two occasions, once off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt, and the other off the coast of Crete, the crew attacked and killed dozens of shipwrecked German sailors and troops. None of the shipwrecked survivors posed a major threat to Torbay's crew. Miers made no attempt to hide his actions, and reported them in his official logs. He received a strongly worded reprimand from his superiors following the first incident. Meir's actions violated the Hague Convention of 1907, which banned the killing of shipwreck survivors under any circumstances.[33][34]

Hospital ship Arno and other Italian non-combatant ships[edit]

On 10 September 1942, the Italian hospital ship Arno was torpedoed and sunk by RAF torpedo bombers north-east of Ras el Tin, near Tobruk. The British claimed that a decoded German radio message intimated that the vessel was carrying supplies to the Axis troops.[35] Arno was the third Italian hospital ship sunk by British aircraft since the loss of the Po in the Adriatic Sea to aerial torpedoes on 14 March 1941 and the bombing of the California off Syracuse on 11 August 1942. Five sea-rescue boats, used to search for missing pilots from both sides of the conflict were also strafed and sunk by RAF planes during the same period.[36]

Hospital ship Tübingen[edit]

On 18 November 1944, the German hospital ship Tübingen was sunk by two Beaufighter bombers off Pola, in the Adriatic Sea. The vessel, which had paid a brief visit to the allied-controlled port of Bari to pick up German wounded, was attacked with rockets nine times, despite that the calm sea and the good weather allowed a clear identification of the ship. Six crewmembers were killed.[37] American author Alfred M. de Zayas, who compiled the 266 extant volumes of the Wehrmacht War Crimes Bureau, identifies the sinking of Tübingen and other German hospital ships as war crimes.[38]

Bombing of Dresden[edit]

The city centre of Dresden after the bombing

The British, with other allied nations (mainly the U.S.) carried out air raids against enemy cities during World War II, including the bombing of the German city of Dresden, which killed around 25,000 people. While "no agreement, treaty, convention or any other instrument governing the protection of the civilian population or civilian property" from aerial attack was adopted before the war,[39] the Hague Conventions did prohibit the bombardment of undefended towns. Allied forces inquiry concluded that an air attack on Dresden was militarily justified on the grounds the city was defended.[40]

This city was filled with refugees fleeing the oncoming Red Army.[41][42] When asked whether the bombing of Dresden was a war crime, British historian Frederick Taylor replied: "I really don't know. From a practical point of view, rules of war are something of a grey area. It was pretty borderline stuff in terms of the extent of the raid and the amount of force used."[43] Historian Donald Bloxham claims that "the bombing of Dresden on 13–14 February 1945 was a war crime". He further argues that there was a strong prima facie for trying Winston Churchill among others and that there is theoretical case that he could have been found guilty. "This should be a sobering thought. If, however it is also a startling one, this is probably less the result of widespread understanding of the nuance of international law and more because in the popular mind 'war criminal', like 'paedophile' or 'terrorist', has developed into a moral rather than a legal categorisation."[44]

Malaya[edit]

On 12 December 1948, during the Malayan Emergency, the Batang Kali massacre took place which involved the killing of 24 villagers. {} The official British position was that these villagers were insurgents attempting to escape, and that detailed investigation into the situation was not possible due to a lack of evidence.[citation needed] Six of the eight British soldiers involved were interviewed under caution by detectives. They corroborated accounts that the villagers were unarmed, were not insurgents nor trying to escape, and had been unlawfully killed on the order of the two sergeants in command. The sergeants denied the allegations. The Government's position was that if anyone is to be held responsible, it should be the Sultan of Selangor.[45][46][47][48]

Throughout the conflict, it was common by British troops to detain and torture villagers who were suspected in aiding the insurgents while attempting to search for them.[citation needed] Brian Lapping said that there was “some vicious conduct by the British forces, who routinely beat up Chinese squatters when they refused, or possibly were unable, to give information” about the insurgents.[citation needed] There were also cases of bodies of dead guerrillas being exhibited in public. The Scotsman newspaper lauded these tactics as a good practice since “simple-minded peasants are told and come to believe that the communist leaders are invulnerable”.[citation needed] Due to the fact the British were unable to distinguish from friend to foe as they went deep into the jungles and tired and living in fear of insurgent attacks, they often shoot anything that moves. A young British officer commented that: “We were shooting people. We were killing them...This was raw savage success. It was butchery. It was horror.”[citation needed] British units also compete each other in competition who was going to kill more people or not. One British army conscript recalled that “when we had an officer who did come out with us on patrol I realised that he was only interested in one thing: killing as many people as possible”.[citation needed] British forces also booby-trapped jungle food stores and burned villages.[citation needed] Some civilians and detainees were also shot, either they attempted to flee from them on the grounds that they could give the insurgents valuable assistance to continue to fight against British forces or that simply because they refuse to give intelligence to British forces.[citation needed]

Decapitation and mutilation of insurgents by British forces were also common as a way to identify dead guerrillas when it was not possible to bring their corpses in from the jungle. A photograph of a Royal Marine commando holding two insurgents’ heads caused a public outcry in April 1952. The Colonial Office privately noted that “there is no doubt that under international law a similar case in wartime would be a war crime”.[49][50][51]

As part of the Briggs' Plan devised by British General Sir Harold Briggs, 500,000 people (roughly ten percent of Malaya's population) were eventually removed from the land, had tens of thousands of their homes destroyed, and interned in 450 guarded fortified camps called "New Villages". The intent of this measure was to inflict collective punishments on villages where people were deemed to be aiding the insurgents and to isolate the population from contact with insurgents. The British also tried to win the hearts of the internees by providing them with education and health services as well as piped water and electricity within the villages. While considered necessary, some of the cases involving the widespread destruction went beyond justification of military necessity.[citation needed] This practice was prohibited by the Geneva Conventions and customary international law which stated that the destruction of property must not happen unless rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.[49][50][52]

Kenya[edit]

Brutal treatment, castration, and mutilation of detainees in British concentration camps[edit]

During an eight-year conflict in Kenya from 1952 to 1960 in which Britain sought to restore order many Kikuyu were relocated. According to David Anderson, the British hanged over 1,090 suspected rebels: far more than the French executed in Algeria during the Algerian War. It was found out that over half of them executed were not rebels at all. Thousands more were killed by British soldiers, who claimed they had "failed to halt" when challenged.[53][54][55] Among the detainees who suffered severe mistreatment was Hussein Onyango Obama, the grandfather of U.S. President Barack Obama. According to his widow, British soldiers forced pins into his fingernails and buttocks and squeezed his testicles between metal rods and two others were castrated.[56]

In June 1957, Eric Griffith-Jones, the attorney general of the British administration in Kenya, wrote to the governor, Sir Evelyn Baring, detailing the way the regime of abuse at the colony's detention camps was being subtly altered. He said that the mistreatment of the detainees is "distressingly reminiscent of conditions in Nazi Germany or Communist Russia". Despite this, he said that in order for abuse to remain legal, Mau Mau suspects must be beaten mainly on their upper body, "vulnerable parts of the body should not be struck, particularly the spleen, liver or kidneys", and it was important that "those who administer violence ... should remain collected, balanced and dispassionate". He also reminded the governor that "If we are going to sin," he wrote, "we must sin quietly."[56][57]

Chuka Massacre[edit]

The Chuka Massacre, which happened in Chuka, Kenya, was perpetrated by members of the King's African Rifles B Company in June 1953 with 20 unarmed people killed during the Mau Mau uprising. Members of the 5th KAR B Company entered the Chuka area on June 13, 1953, to flush out rebels suspected of hiding in the nearby forests. Over the next few days, the regiment had captured and executed 20 people suspected of being Mau Mau fighters for unknown reasons. It is found out that most of the people executed were actually belonged to the Kikuyu Home Guard - a loyalist militia recruited by the British to fight an increasingly powerful and audacious guerrilla enemy. In an atmosphere of atrocity and reprisal, the matter was swept under the carpet and nobody ever stood trial for the massacre.

Hola Massacre[edit]

The Hola massacre was an incident during the conflict in Kenya against British colonial rule at a colonial detention camp in Hola, Kenya. By January 1959 the camp had a population of 506 detainees of whom 127 were held in a secluded “closed camp”. This more remote camp near Garissa, eastern Kenya, was reserved for the most uncooperative of the detainees. They often refused, even when threats of force were made, to join in the colonial "rehabilitation process" or perform manual labour or obey colonial orders. The camp commandant outlined a plan that would force 88 of the detainees to bend to work. On 3 March 1959, the camp commandant put this plan into action – as a result, 11 detainees were clubbed to death by guards.[58] 77 surviving detainees sustained serious permanent injuries.[59] The British government accepts that the colonial administration tortured detainees, but denies liability.[60]

Northern Ireland[edit]

There is evidence of collusion between Loyalist paramilitaries and British security forces throughout the conflict,[61] which was particularly exposed by the 1975 Miami Showband massacre[62] and the 1989 killings of Pat Finucane and Loughlin Maginn.[63]

Various unarmed male civilians (some of whom were named during a 2013 television programme) were shot, two of them (Patrick McVeigh, Daniel Rooney) fatally, in 1972, allegedly by the Military Reaction Force (MRF), an undercover military unit tasked with targeting Irish Republican Army paramilitaries during the last installment of the Troubles. Two brothers, whose names and casualty status were not mentioned in an article regarding the same matter in The Irish Times, ran a fruit stall in west Belfast, and were shot after being mistaken for IRA paramilitaries.[64]

"We were hunting down hardcore baby-killers, terrorists, people that would kill you without even thinking about it ... If you had a player who was a well-known shooter who carried out quite a lot of assassinations ... then he had to be taken out", several soldiers stated during interviews with the British news series Panorama.[65]

Bloody Sunday (Irish: Domhnach na Fola)—sometimes called the Bogside Massacre—was an incident on 30 January 1972 in the Bogside area of Derry, Northern Ireland, in which 26 civil-rights protesters and bystanders were shot by soldiers of the British Army. Thirteen males, seven of whom were teenagers, died immediately or soon after, while the death of another man four-and-a-half months later was attributed to the injuries he received on that day. Two protesters were also injured when they were run down by military vehicles.

Evidence shows that the British Army subjected prisoners in Northern Ireland to torture and waterboarding during interrogations in the 1970s. Liam Holden was wrongfully arrested by British forces for the murder of a British soldier and became the last person in the United Kingdom to be sentenced to hang after being convicted in 1973, largely on the basis of an unsigned confession produced by torture.[66] His death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment and he spent 17 years behind bars. On 21 June 2012, in the light of CCRC investigations which confirmed that the methods used to extract confessions were unlawful,[67] Holden had his conviction quashed by the Court of Appeal in Belfast, at the age of 58.[68][69] Former Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) interrogators during the Troubles admitted that beatings, the sleep deprivation, waterboarding, and the other tortures were systematic, and were, at times, sanctioned at a very high level within the force.[70]

The British Army and the RUC also operated under a shoot-to-kill policy in Northern Ireland, under which suspects were alleged to have been deliberately killed without any attempt to arrest them. In four separate cases considered by the European court of human rights - involving the deaths of ten IRA men, a Sinn Féin member and a civilian - seven judges ruled unanimously that Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights guaranteeing a right to life had been violated by Britain.[71]

Falklands War[edit]

In 1993, Argentina's president, Carlos Menem, ordered an investigation into allegations that Argentine soldiers captured during the Battle of Mount Longdon had been executed by British paratroopers. The statements[which?] were said to confirm seven executions.[72]

Former corporal José Carrizo claimed British paratroopers shot him in the head after he had surrendered.[73] Carrizo's reports were confirmed by another soldier named as Santiago Mambrin.[74] Then commander of land forces in the Falklands, former Brigadier-General Oscar Jofre pointed out that "I never heard of anything like this happening, throughout the war or after it. If it happened, it was something that happens in every war, not accepting surrender through tiredness or fear or because of the loss of comrades. Of course it is not the norm, but since soldiers are men they can deviate from the norm."[75]

Iraq War[edit]

Abuses and violations of the laws and customs of war were committed by British forces during the Iraq War. There were a number of cases where British soldiers opened fire and killed Iraqi civilians in circumstances where there was apparently no imminent threat of death or serious injury to themselves or others.[who?] Many of them resorted to lethal force even though the use of such force did not appear to be justified by military necessity in order to protect life.[who?] From May 2003 to March 2004, over 37 Iraqi civilians were unlawfully killed by British troops.[this quote needs a citation] Compensation were paid by the MoD to some of the families' victims but none of the British soldiers were charged for these deaths.[76][77][78] Many Iraqi civilians also died or were seriously injured from brutal mistreatment while under British custody.[79][80] In one case, following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, a video showed British soldiers brutally beating an Iraqi civilian after the killing of six Royal Military Policemen, known as Red Caps, by an Iraqi mob.[81]

An Iraqi man, Ather Karen al-Mowafakia, was shot and killed by a British Army soldier at a roadside checkpoint on 29 April 2003. Witnesses have told how he was shot in the abdomen after the door of his car struck a British soldier on the leg when he was getting out of his car, and that he was then dragged from the vehicle and beaten by British troops, dying later in hospital. There was no prosecution of British troops involved in his death.[80][82]

In May 2003, Saeed Shabram and his cousin, Menem Akaili, were thrown into the river near Basra after being detained by British troops. Akaili survived but Shabram did not as he drowned in the river. Akaili said that he and Shabram were approached by a British patrol and led at gunpoint down to a jetty before being forced into the river. The punishment was known as "wetting" and said to have been inflicted on local youths suspected of looting. "Wetting was supposed to humiliate those suspected of being petty criminals," said Sapna Malik, the family's lawyer at Leigh Day and Co. "Although the MoD denies that there was a policy of wetting to deal with suspected looters around the time of this incident, evidence we have seen suggests otherwise. "The tactics employed by the MoD appeared to include throwing or placing suspected looters into either of Basra's two main waterways." Iraqi bystanders dragged Akaili out of the water but his cousin disappeared. Shabram's body was later recovered by a diver hired by his father, Radhi Shabram. Shabram's mother waited on the river bank for four hours, screaming and crying, while the diver searched the river. "When Saeed's corpse was finally pulled from the river, Radhi describes how it was bloated and covered with marks and bruises," said Leigh Day. Though the MOD paid compensation to Saeed Shabram's family, none of the British soldiers were charged for his death.[83]

Ahmed Jabbar Kareem Ali, aged 15, was on his way to work with his brother on May 8, 2003, when British soldiers assaulted him. The four British soldiers beat him then forced him into a canal at gunpoint to "teach him a lesson" for suspected looting (which wasn't proven to be true). Weakened from the beating Ali received from the soldiers, he floundered. He was dead when he was pulled from the river. Four British soldiers who were involved in the death of an Iraqi teenager were acquitted of manslaughter.[84][85]

Hanan Saleh Matrud, an eight year old Iraqi girl, was killed on 21 August 2003 by a soldier of the King's Regiment, when a Warrior armoured vehicle stopped near an alley that lead to her home. Three or four soldiers got out. A group of children, including Hanan gathered, attracted by the soldiers. Suddenly, a soldier of the King's Regiment aimed and fired a shot that hit Hanan in her lower torso. At first, soldiers did not want to take her to hospital, but later did. She died the following day after an operation. The soldiers later claimed that they had came under attack by a mob, but local people strongly denied it. No proper investigation was carried out, and no British soldier has been charged with her killing.[86]

Corporal Donald Payne (born 9 September 1970)[87] is a former soldier of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment of the British Army who became the first member of the British armed forces to be convicted of a war crime under the provisions of the International Criminal Court Act 2001 for the death of Baha Mousa when he pleaded guilty on 19 September 2006 to a charge of inhumane treatment.[88][89] He was jailed for one year and dismissed from the army as a result of his actions.[90]

On January 1, 2004, Ghanem Kadhem Kati, an unarmed young man, was shot twice in the back by a British soldier at the door to his home on January 1. Troops had arrived at the scene after hearing shooting, which neighbours said came from a wedding party. Investigators from the Royal Military Police exhumed the teenager's body six weeks later but have yet to offer compensation or announce any conclusion to the inquiry.[76]

In May 2004, a British soldier identified as M004 allegedly mistreated captured, unarmed prisoners of war during a 'tactical questioning' in Camp Abu Naji.[91]

In February 2006, a video showing a group of British soldiers beating several Iraqi teenagers was posted on the internet, and shortly thereafter, on the main television networks around the world. The video took place in April 2004 and was taken from an upper storey of a building in the southern Iraqi town of Al-Amarah, shows many Iraqis outside a coalition compound. Following an altercation in which members of the crowd tossed rocks and reportedly an improvised grenade at the soldiers, the British soldiers rushed the crowd. The troopers brought some Iraqi teenagers into the compound and proceeded to beat them. The video includes a voiceover in a British accent by the cameraman, taunting the beaten teenagers. The individual recording could be heard saying:

Oh, yes! Oh Yes! Now you gonna get it. You little kids. You little motherfucking bitch!, you little motherfucking bitch.[92]

The event was broadcast in mainstream media, resulting in the British government and military condemning the event. The incident became especially worrisome for British soldiers, who had enjoyed a more favourable position than American soldiers in the region. Concerns were voiced to the media about the safety of soldiers in the country after the incident. The tape incurred criticism, albeit relatively muted, from Iraq, and media found people prepared to speak out. The Royal Military Police conducted an investigation into the event, and the prosecuting authorities determined that there was insufficient case to justify court martial proceedings.[80][93]

Afghan War[edit]

A Royal Marine Sergeant, identified as Sergeant Alexander Blackman from Taunton, Somerset,[94] was convicted at court martial in Wiltshire of having murdered an unarmed, wounded Afghan fighter in Helmand Province in September 2011.[95] On 6 December 2013, Sergeant Blackman received a life sentence, with a minimum of ten years before he is eligible for parole, from the court martial in Bulford, Wiltshire. Furthermore he has been dismissed with disgrace from the Royal Marines.[96][97]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

Footnotes
Citations
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References[edit]