The evidence now emerging about systemic abuse by British soldiers against Iraqi prisoners is exceptionally serious. We have preened ourselves hitherto that, by contrast to the Americans who routinely used torture in their Bagram detention centre in Afghanistan and Abu Ghraib in Iraq (as well as in their global secret network of ‘black prisons’ where people disappeared after rendition), the British would never behave in this inhuman manner. Detailed reports now suggest otherwise, and it is imperative that there should now be a full independent public inquiry to lay bare the extent of these brutalities, how they were allowed to happen, and what needs to be done to prevent their being repeated in any war situation in future.
What is also particularly disturbing is the relentless determination of the authorities, both US and UK, to stop any such evidence getting into the public domain in the first place. Only the courage of Julian Assange at Wikipedia allowed us to learn the truth about the routinised violence of the American military in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Only the case in the High Court currently being brought by 200 former victims of the secret British interrogation centre near Basra has brought into the daylight the sustematic abuse of human rights by the UK military. Both governments made every effort they could to block publication of the relevant evidence. Even now the MOD is still claiming that no independent inquiry is necessary, they can deal with it themselves. They would say that.The latest allegations are similar to those that first appalled the world over the US prison at Abu Ghraib. It is alleged that at the British military interrogation centre detainees were starved, sexually humiliated, sleep-deprived, threatened with execution, sensorily deprived, left for hours in stress positions, given electric shocks, severely beaten, and their family members ill-treated and threatened with rape. Yet all complaints about such inhuman and degrading treatment by UK military lawyers and international bodies like the Red Cross have hitherto been brushed aside and denied.
Of course the US and UK authorities will continue to put every obstacle they can in the way of full revelation of these activities. That’s precisely why it is now so vital that the British Parliament re-asserts the right its Victorian predecessors regularly exercised to set up its own Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry into matters of overriding national importance where the Government (in effect No.10) refuses to do so, largely because the Government itself through its various agents is the main target for the inquiry.