Torture “now routine”

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

22 October 2012

It is becoming increasingly evident that torture is now routinely used by the armies of the self-styled civilised states of the west.

The exposure of the torture of prisoners by US troops at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2004 let the cat out of the bag.

At first we had the routine military-manual evidence-free reaction from the authorities that the perpetrators were “just a few bad apples”.

But since then the evidence has been piling up that the use of torture is standard western military practice. Scads of states allied to the US in the “war on terror” – not least in Europe – have been assisting America in the transport of suspects around the world to be tortured secretly in the dungeons of states outside the reach of the rule of law. This is the anodynely named “renditions” programme.

Now Colonel Nicholas Mercer, formerly chief legal adviser to the British army in Iraq, is reported as saying last week that UK complicity in the unlawful treatment of detainees was “institutional”.

In a report in the London Guardian on 19 October 2o12, he claimed that the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) blocked his attempts to set up independent judicial monitoring of the treatment of detainees.

Giving the annual Baha Mousa memorial lecture on 18 October 2012,  Colonel Mercer is reported as saying that Britain’s obligations under domestic and international law were routinely ignored.

According to the newspaper report, Colonel Mercer described how he was gagged after he criticized senior British commanders and MoD officials in connection with the case of Baha Mousa, who died while in the custody of British troops.

The Wikipedia report on the death of Baha Mousa says:

“On 14 September 2003, Mousa, a 26-year-old hotel receptionist, was arrested along with six other men and taken to a British base [in Iraq]. While in detention, Mousa and the other captives were hooded, severely beaten and assaulted by a number of British troops. Two days later Mousa was found dead. A postmortem examination found that Mousa suffered multiple injuries (at least 93), including fractured ribs and a broken nose….”

An “inquiry into his death found that Mousa’s death was caused by ‘factors including lack of food and water, heat, exhaustion, fear, previous injuries and the hooding and stress positions used by British troops – and a final struggle with his guards’. The inquiry heard that Mousa was hooded for almost 24 hours during his 36 hours of custody by the 1st Battalion of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment and that he suffered at least 93 injuries prior to his death. The report later details that Mousa was subject to several practices banned under both domestic law and the Geneva Conventions.”

“A final 1,400-page report said a ‘large number’ of soldiers assaulted Mousa and that many others including officers must have known about the abuse. The report called this death an ‘appalling episode of serious gratuitous violence’. The inquiry condemned the Ministry of Defence for ‘corporate failure’ and the regiment for a ‘lack of moral courage to report abuse’.”


A single soldier, Corporal Donald Payne, has admitted inhumane treatment in connectio with this case.  He was jailed for only one year and dismissed from the army.



The authorities have a standard procedure for dealing with allegations of torture. These include:

  • Denying the allegations outright;


  • Suggesting that the allegations have been fabricated either by the enemy or by parties with a grudge who want to discredit the army;


  • Claiming, without producing any evidence, that if anything untoward occurred only a handful of troops were involved and stating at the same time, again without providing any evidence, that the “vast majority” of troops are angels and wouldn’t hurt a fly;


  • Setting up a long-drawn-out inquiry, internal if possible, in the hope that (a) the investigators, mindful of the army’s reputation, will fail to uncover any incriminating evidence  and (b) that the media will have lost interest before the inquiry reports.


 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)

2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)

3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)

4. Capitalism in practice  (4 July 2012) 

5.Ladder  (21 June 2012)

 6. A tale of two cities (1)  (6 June 2012)

 7. A tale of two cities (2)  (7 June 2012)

 8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.








This entry was posted in Iraq, Torture, UK, USA and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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