A good kicking: Transcript

NB: THIS TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A TRANSCRIPTION UNIT RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT: BECAUSE OF THE POSSIBILITY OF MIS-HEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY, IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS ACCURACY. PANORAMA A GOOD KICKING

Reporter : PAUL KENYON RECORDED FROM TRANSMISSION: BBC One DATE: 13:03:07

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/panorama/6455113.stm (link now down - summary still up at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/panorama/6435815.stm )

JEREMY VINE: Hello, I'm Jeremy Vine and this is Panorama. He had 93 separate injuries on his body when he was left for dead on a toilet floor. What I saw in that cell wasn't interrogation, it wasn't detention, it was torture.

VINE: But what's the biggest scandal? A rare example of horrific abuse by the British Army or a failure to nail those really responsible. Cover-up is almost a fact of life within the military. The military are very secretive, naturally.

VINE: The facts are shocking, yet to read some of the coverage of the court-martial into the death of a prisoner you'd think the charges were somehow trumped up in an excess of political correctness. There is nothing fabricated about the injuries to Baha Mousa or the fact that dozens of soldiers either joined in or witnessed the abuse. So why is only one man facing punishment?

Reconstruction -PAUL KENYON: A scene of crime, there's a dead body. There are men with internal bleeding, ruptured organs, broken bones. They have sandbags over their heads, their hands are bound. They're lying in their own excrement, semi-naked, semi-conscious, shaking, terrified. They've been tortured for 36 hours. If they were British we'd want the people who did this to go to jail, but this is a war crime committed by British soldiers and the Iraqi victims have been let down by British justice. General SIR MIKE JACKSON Head of the British Army 2003-06 It disturbs me that it is probable that this trial will conclude and we will not know how Baha Mousa died. For the vast majority of soldiers they feel uncomfortable, even ashamed perhaps that such deeds are alleged to have been made by members of their army.

KENYON: This is the detention centre in Basra where it happened. We know war crimes were committed in these rooms. We know which units were there, we know who was in charge. We even know who inflicted some of the abuse. Enough, you'd think, for a properly functioning investigation to move towards finding the culprits but it failed to do that and not for the first time. Reconstruction

PHIL SHINER Iraqi detainees' lawyer You've got soldiers investigating other soldiers, and then the papers are sent up to soldiers who decide who should or shouldn't be prosecuted. It's a cover up, it's a travesty. The military system hasn't got close to establishing what went wrong.

KENYON: We flew two victims of this British war crime to Jordan. It was unsafe to film them at their homes in Basra. Before you hear about their ordeal, you need to know a bit about them. There's no evidence these were Saddam's men or insurgents. They're Iraqi civilians, hotel workers, the kind of Iraqis the invasion was supposed to help. RADIF MUSLIM Iraqi detainee At first we welcomed the British troops to the country. We couldn't express our happiness enough when they first arrived. But after a while the situation changed from joy to sadness when their behaviour towards us became worse.

KENYON: With their help, court-martial evidence and army whistleblowers we'll recreate what happened to these men and others. It's six months after the invasion of Iraq. Saddam is still on the run. British troops are stretched to the limit in Basra. Captain Dai Jones, a popular young officer in the Queen's Lancashire Regiment, had been out trying to build bridges with the local community. He was taking an injured colleague to hospital when his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb and he was killed. Two weeks after his funeral the British army is out searching for the bombers. There's a tip off about this hotel. It's 6am and the staff are about to start work. Their lives are about to change forever. Reconstruction based on court evidence The troops want to question the owner of the hotel. The soldier in charge of the snatch squad is Lieutenant Craig Rogers, he'll play a key part in the story. The search finds ammunition, weapons and grenades. Suddenly the mood changes. The hotel workers are thrown to the floor and restrained with plasticuffs. But the man the British are looking for has already fled. One of those arrested was Baha Malki.

BAHA MALKI Iraqi detainee I don't understand much English but I know that: "f**** your mother and f*** your sister" is an insult to the family. Then they pushed us on the ground and started stamping on us with their boots while our hands were bound.

KENYON: These men are the hotel cleaners, the night watchman and the receptionist called Baha Mousa. He'll soon be dead.

MALKI: They were laying us on the ground one next to the other with handcuffs on our wrists. Baha Mousa was the one they picked on the most. He was badly kicked several times in the head with their boots.

KENYON: It's here in the hotel at the hands of Lieutenant Rogers' unit that Baha Mousa suffers his first injuries. Neither Rogers nor any of his men have been on trial. The detainees are then moved outside to the waiting truck. The place they're being taken for interrogation was once used by Saddam's secret police for torture. Now it's a British camp. The jailer here is Corporal Donald Payne. Reconstruction based on court evidence He will eventually admit mistreatment of prisoners amounting to torture, that's a war crime. But the court-martial judge has banned us from showing you his picture. Over the next day and a half the detainees will be picked up one by one for interrogation. Later it was accepted none had a role in the death of Dai Jones. But for now they're put into stress positions designed to create pain and exhaustion.

MALKI: They made sure our handcuffs were tight and they put hoods over our heads. Then they dragged us to the room one by one. We could barely see in the room. Then they started abusing us from early in the morning until afternoon.

KENYON: The combination of hooding, stress positions and sleep depravation has been banned in most circumstances for nearly 30 years. Defendants and witnesses in court claimed this was approved by senior officers to prepare the detainees for questioning, but it didn't stop there.

RADIF MUSLIM: One time I was beaten by two soldiers at the same time. It was like the beatings in a karate film.

KENYON: The jailer, Corporal Payne, set the tone.

MALKI: If we failed to keep upright we would be strangled around our necks until we are out of breath, to make us stand quickly to get ready for more beatings. And the British soldier used to kick us in the kidneys and around the head to force us to stand.

PHIL SHINER Iraqi detainees' lawyer The Queen's Lancashire Regiment believed that these were the men who had killed their favourite captain and witness after witness after witness these are the soldiers who were saying: "We were told... I was told that these are the men that have killed Dai Jones." It's quite clear to me that this was punishment and it was a free-for-all.

British Defence Film Library KENYON: This is a training video for British troops being sent into combat. "The law of armed conflict is an important part of international law."

KENYON: It includes rules on treatment of prisoners and they're not fuzzy. "Prisoners should not be attacked and must be protected against acts of violence, intimidation, insults and public curiosity."

KENYON: The rules are in the Geneva Convention and other international treaties. The Queen's Lancashire Regiment was breaking them. There are also operational rules, civilian detainees must be moved from the army lockup to a regular jail within 14 hours. This meant the detainees should have been sent up the line to the American Camp Buka. That didn't happen until one of them was dead two days later. On arrival a US army doctor examined them.

Dr ERIC SHAW US Army doctor We had two detainees who were brought to us from the ah... they were brought with British soldiers. I was concerned that one of them had liver fracture and the other one had a spleen fracture and they can be life-threatening injuries. They had left a sour taste in my mouth. It was because of the... the history of trauma and the circumstances in which they were brought in it was... something was suspicious.

KENYON: One of those examined was Kifah Mutairi, he was older than the rest and the soldiers nicknamed him "granddad". This is what happened to him in British custody. Panorama interviewed him just months after his release. He's since died in a building collapse.

KIFAH MUTAIRI Iraqi detainee 'Grandad' They started torturing us before they posed any questions. Basically they were kick boxing us and looked to be really enjoying it. Reconstruction based on court evidence

KENYON: Throughout the detention he witnessed beatings inflicted on his friend, the hotel receptionist Baha Mousa.

KIFAH: Baha was with me from the moment we were arrested. We were also put in the same cell. He suffered a lot at their hands. They were very cruel. I do not believe they had any feelings. I would say they were not human.

KENYON: The men were approaching their first night in custody.

SOLDIER: Alright, goodnight then ladies. Have a good sleep, won't yer.

KENYON: And there was a key development. A new shift of men took over guarding the detainees.

SOLDIER: Wakey wakey.....

KENYON: It was the unit of soldiers who'd first arrested them at the hotel.

BAHA MALKI Iraqi detainee At night we thought the torturing would be less painful but in fact it got worse and worse.

KENYON: It was Lieutenant Rogers and his men - they were back. These are the soldiers who were not put on trial and yet the judge said it was from then on during their shifts that the violence intensified.

MALKI: We asked them if we could use the bathroom and they said: "Piss yourself here in the room." We couldn't help it, we had to. Then there was more and more hitting. It felt as if they were hitting us with something like a metal pipe. At about 2am in the morning they took us to the interrogation room.

KENYON: It was Lieutenant Rogers' men who were now on shift right to the end. The jailer, Corporal Payne, was in and out too. He'd taken a special disliking to the man they'd nicknamed "granddad." On day two a young RAF man called Scott Hughes walked in, curious about the screams. The airman's court-martial evidence is spoken by an actor. Reconstruction based on witness testimony

SCOTT HUGHES [ACTOR]: Corporal Payne was standing behind granddad. He kicked him in the lower back region where the kidneys are located. He groaned in a pained groan. Corporal Payne then put his hand, using his forefinger and his second finger into like the eye socket and yanked his head up like trying to.. it was as if he was gouging the eyes, like he was trying to pick his head up by his eye sockets.

KENYON: Outside the temperature was hitting the 40s. The men had been in British custody for a day and a night with limited food and water.

HUGHES: Payne picked granddad up by the back of his collar. He put him in the sitting position and told him to get his head up and hold his arms up. Then he struck the back of granddad's neck. Granddad let out a groan. It was like a karate chop. Granddad fell back over onto his side. Payne then said: "You're pissing me off now." He karate chopped him again and then he punched granddad a couple of times in his rib kind of area. Then I heard a bang, a clunk, a noise like something was colliding with something else. His head hit the floor.

KENYON: Others were also getting stuck in, but they were from the unit of Lieutenant Rogers, the men who appeared as witnesses but not in the dock. According to another soldier, Rogers himself, an officer, was joining in, and that soldier's statement to army investigators is spoken by an actor. Reconstruction based on witness testimony

SOLDIER: As I watched, I saw Lieutenant Rogers approach the first or second prisoner, pick him up and punch him through the sandbag to the head as a result of which the man fell to the floor. I then saw Lieutenant Rogers again lift the man so that he was in a standing position when he kicked him to the body. As Lieutenant Rogers was doing this, members of the unit were doing the same. I could not believe what I was seeing was actually taking place.

KENYON: Rogers and several of his unit were mentioned repeatedly in the court-martial as being involved in the beatings. Lawyers acting for those who were on trial fear the court-martial has failed to get to the truth.

WILLIAM BACHE Corporal Payne's lawyer One has a suspicion about the "members of the multiple" as it's called, who were involved in their arrest and their day-to-day, minute-by-minute guarding.

KENYON: This is the unit of soldiers who were actually being overseen at the time by Lieutenant Rogers.

BACHE: Yes.

KENYON: Remember, it was Rogers' unit, or multiple, which appeared to be out of control when raiding the hotel. It was the unit that was in charge of the detainees overnight when the judge points out that the beatings got worse.

BACHE: There certainly was an indication from those who gave evidence that he could have been involved with matters that would attract criminal charges. There's a great deal of suspicion I believe that arises in relation to their conduct, not least because when most of them gave evidence in the court-martial there was what the judge has since described as "a wall of silence."

KENYON: Yet in this court-martial at a British Army base in Wiltshire, the MoD made every effort to prevent that happening. For the first time it used a High Court judge. It took six months to complete and employed some of the top barristers in the land and cost the taxpayer around 20 million pounds, but still it couldn't penetrate the wall of silence. Ten members of Rogers' unit gave evidence in court. Their most frequently used phrase: "I can't remember." They said it six hundred and sixty-seven times!

BACHE: It became almost embarrassing to hear each and every one of them say well they couldn't remember and.. I mean it was.. they were just not producing any information whatsoever.

KENYON: Have you seen anything like that before, on that scale?

BACHE: Not on that scale. Not on that scale, no.

KENYON: Soldiers cover up for each other in these situations, don't they.

General SIR MIKE JACKSON Head of the British Army, 2003-06 Ah... they.... (laugh) Human behaviour being what it is, I'm not going to deny that that is a possibility. It's equally a possibility between a gang of criminals in the civilian world. This is not peculiar, this is what I'm... the point I want to make, it's not peculiar to soldiers, airmen, or sailors for that matter.

KENYON: A judge says that none of these soldiers had been charged with any offence as a result of a more or less obvious closing of ranks. When you hear something like that about the British army, how does it make you feel?

JACKSON: Uncomfortable.

KENYON: Surprised?

JACKSON: A bit, but uncomfortable. Reconstruction

KENYON: The jailer, Corporal Donald Payne, was cleared of manslaughter but admitted abusing the detainees. He had little choice. Witness after witness testified as to how he turned torture into a performance.

HUGHES: Payne picked up granddad by his collar and put him back in a seating position. I remember Payne saying:

Reconstruction SOLDIER: "Hello mate. You want to hear the choir?"

HUGHES: What it was, he went around the room with all the detainees in and kicked them in the lower back and they all let out a sound as if it were a choir singing.

KENYON: Panorama approached fifteen soldiers who were there. The MoD advised some of them not to talk to us. But one soldier was so shocked by what he saw, he did agree to be interviewed as long as we hid his identity.

ANONYMOUS SOLDIER: What I saw in that cell was.. it wasn't interrogation, it wasn't detention, it was torture as far as I'm concerned. Curiosity attracts me but I've not actually heard such noises since I've been in Iraq.

KENYON: What kind of noises?

ANONYMOUS SOLDIER: Masses amounts of screaming, abuse being directed at people and then in between that, groans and screams from other men, and these men didn't sound like they were in good shape whatsoever. So there was that curiosity.

KENYON: By this time the detainees had endured almost 36 hours of British detention.

ANONYMOUS SOLDIER: Those men were at the end of their tether really. They'd obviously been through a lot and they were all physically weak and emotionally very upset. They were all whimpering and shaking, unable to cope with what they'd been experiencing.

KENYON: And how did the British soldiers there respond to these people who were shivering, groaning and screaming?

ANONYMOUS SOLDIER: Well it was brutal, it was barbaric.

KENYON: It was about to come to an end. One of the detainees was separated from the rest for constantly trying to escape. It was Baha Mousa, the hotel receptionist.

ANONYMOUS SOLDIER: There was an old latrine, just a hall of cesspits, and there was a man who was bound and made to lie with his nose hanging over that latrine and he'd been thrown around and he'd soiled himself and he was lying in his own urine. The detainee, nicknamed granddad, hooded in the next room, heard his friend's last moments.

KIFAH MUTAIRI Iraqi detainee 'Grandad' On the last night I could hear Baha's voice was further from me, but I could tell he was in the next room. He was getting tortured and he would groan because the torture was so bad.

KENYON: There was a struggle. Baha Mousa was at the end of his strength. Corporal Payne was restraining him with his knee in his back. A charge of manslaughter against Payne was thrown out.

MUTAIRI: He was shouting: "I am bleeding, my nose is broken. Have mercy on me, I am going to die." Then his voice disappeared.

KENYON: He died of postural asphyxia. In simple terms he'd been unable to breathe. His ribs were fractured and he had 93 separate injuries. Nobody has been convicted over the death of Baha Mousa.

MUTAIRI: When I learnt of Baha's death it was very painful. He was someone who was much loved by everyone and a dear friend.

KENYON: It was nearly two years before some of the key suspects were interviewed. The Iraqi survivors were shown pictures to try to identify the men. They did so, but when they arrived at the court-martial, which instead of a jury has a panel of senior officers, there was a surprise.

RADIF MUSLIM Iraqi detainee One whom I identified 100% because of the mark on his nose, I would still be able to recognise him in a million years. I identified him, but he was not in the court.

KENYON: Who do you think should have been in the dock at this court-martial?

WILLIAM BACHE Corporal Payne's lawyer I would have liked to see those that I believe were truly responsible for the more disgraceful assaults on the detainees, and I believe that not a single one was there.

KENYON: And he's not alone. Worries about the handling of this case have gone right to the top, to the government's chief lawyer the attorney general Lord Goldsmith. Nearly a year and a half after the investigation began he wrote a letter to the Secretary of State for Defence and in it he said he was becoming concerned by what he calls the number of "flaws" in the investigation. One ex-army investigator was so concerned he was willing to break ranks and talk. He used to be a senior officer in what's called the Special Investigation Branch, or SIB. He didn't want his current employers to recognise him. Former army detective (SIB) Just a complete failure to carry out a thorough investigation and bring those people forwards either as key witnesses or suspects, because quite clearly some major evidential gaps in this case which a thorough investigation would have yielded. It's just another example of an appalling investigation.

KENYON: There have been six other high profile investigations by the army into the behaviour of its troops in Iraq. But up until this court-martial, only one of those investigations has ended up with any convictions at all. These images of Iraqis being abused in a British camp led to four soldiers being convicted, but they were all of junior rank. Suspicions about the involvement of higher ranking soldiers were never pursued. News of the World video Then there was this, a video handed to the News of the World, of British soldiers beating teenagers in a compound in Southern Iraq. Despite the evidence, a prosecution was not thought to be in the public interest. Then an army investigation into the fatal shooting at a checkpoint of Sergeant Steven Roberts and an Iraqi civilian called Zaher Zaher. There were concerns that senior officers had blocked the investigation after which it was taken out of the hands of the military. 26th November 2004 On this case the attorney general again wrote to the Defence Secretary concerned about "a concerted attempt by the chain of command to influence and prevent an investigation into this matter." This kind of interference has been witnessed at first hand by a former SIB officer.

SIB OFFICER: I have witnessed senior officers having friendly words with people in the SIB, raising eyebrows about the apparent course of an investigation that allows witnesses to be spoken to outside the investigation and influenced and of course people are under career pressure quite often to limit to what they might say to the Special Investigation Branch, or indeed say nothing at all. So it is a thoroughly unsatisfactory state of affairs.

KENYON: At the start of this court-martial there were seven soldiers in the dock over the death of Baha Mousa, senior officers, an interrogator and some guards. The most senior was Commanding Officer Colonel George Mendoca whose charge of neglect of duty was thrown out by the judge last month. Today's acquittal will see only one soldier sentenced - Corporal Donald Payne, the man left holding the body at the moment of death who admitted inhuman treatment of detainees. Yet, as we've discovered, there's compelling evidence against several soldiers who've never set foot in the dock, men led by Lieutenant Craig Rogers. He's since been promoted to Captain and is currently in Germany training British troops for Iraq and Afghanistan. He declined to comment. PHIL SHINER Iraqi detainees' lawyer It's a combination of deliberate cover-up and gross incompetence and a system that turns in on itself and deliberately sweeps things under the carpet so that the public can't see what's gone wrong.

KENYON: But the military says it would be impractical to take these front-line investigations out of the hands of the army.

General SIR MIKE JACKSON Head of the British Army 2003-06 A civilian investigative organisation would simply not operate when bullets are flying, and that's what the SIB have to do on occasions, the system is not always perfect, and the circumstances in which investigations are made can be very difficult and trying, particularly in an operational theatre. But I can assure you that the army will look at this court-martial very carefully.

KENYON: We showed the Iraqi detainees the home-coming celebrations of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment in November 2003. What does it make you feel?

BAHA MALKI Iraqi detainee What do you want me to say? When I knocked on Baha Mousa's family's door his son came out to tell me that he had died. What is there to say? Please stop the pictures.

JACKSON: The effect on the Iraqis themselves, people whom we are trying to help build a better future, of course when they see their fellow countrymen apparently being abused, it doesn't help consent very much, and consent is so important to our presence in Iraq.

KENYON: As the result of this court-martial filters through to Iraq it's likely to be seen as yet another case of British soldiers getting away with it, breeding more discontent, more violence.

Story from BBC NEWS: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/programmes/panorama/6455113.stm Published: 2007/03/15 14:55:58 GMT BBC MMVII