A female British soldier is accused of sexually humiliating and abusing prisoners in Iraq in a series of claims about British troops in Basra, The Times has learnt.
Five former detainees have made specific allegations against a female interrogator they knew as “Katy”.
The claims are among 14 new cases brought against a secretive British Army interrogation unit. These bring to 40 the total of pending British court cases by former Iraqi detainees.
Sexual abuse was routinely practised by the Joint Forward Intelligence Team (JFIT) between 2003 and 2007, it is claimed, when the unit ran the Divisional Temporary Detention Facility based at the Shaibah Logistics Base near Basra. Among the allegations is at least one case of male rape.
Interrogators are also accused of coercive practices outlawed in Britain, including threats and actual violence, the use of stress positions, sleep deprivation, exposure to heat and cold, hooding and threats to rape and murder detainees’ families.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman told The Times that all the allegations were being or would be investigated. However, lawyers from the human rights group Public Interest Law are in the process of bringing judicial review proceedings in all the cases, arguing that British military authorities cannot be relied on to investigate them impartially.
It will be interesting to see what comes of this considering how the United States mishandled our publicized instance of torture and abuse.
However, the reason this problem is so important is because of the claims about sexual violence. One hears about sexual violence against women being used as a tool of war, but one rarely hears about it being used against boys and men although surely it must occur. Male victims are very unlikely to come forward, especially in countries like Iraq where admitting sexual abuse could put the victim at risk for further abuse or even death.
While it is absolutely terrible that these men were abused, what this shows is that not only does it happen, not only is it possibly routine, it is also not the exclusive province of men. It appears that when women face no consequences for their actions they are just as inclined as men to physically and sexually torture other people. There does not appear to be a gender fail-safe that makes it better or safer to have women in positions of power.
The lawyer for five of the former detainees brings up another valid point about the effects of torture:
When a man suffered in prison, [Phil Shiner] said, “this will give him a feeling of revenge and sometimes the sense of revenge cannot be obtained except by joining armed groups. And that is why when the British were being shelled with mortars and missiles, you never found a single person who was objecting”.
Not to get too political, however, part of the reason the violence ebbs and flows as it does is because of the way the Iraqi people, particularly innocent people, are treated. There is no telling how many young men joined armed groups because they were picked up, tortured in prison and then released. The violence we do to them prompts them to do violence against us, which in turn undermines our efforts to build up better relations so that we can remove our forces. Worse yet, it creates a justified element of distrust, the same way that police violence against the poor, the working-class and various ethnic groups in the United States creates distrust, only on a much larger scale. Instead of limiting it to a particular community in a town or city, the torture the West commits causes distrust and hatred against the West in much of the Middle East.
How these cases get handled with either lessen or worsen the situation. More likely than not, nothing will happen. No heads will roll, no one will be fired, although there may be a few discharges. The people who tortured innocent Iraqis in “good faith” will walk, which will make anything Britain or other Western countries say about human rights sound like one-sided nonsense.