London: Britain`s military intelligence ran a secret torture unit in Iraq which "reported directly to London" and authorised harsh treatment of detainees, a media report said on Sunday.
In fact, prisoners were kept hooded for long periods in intense heat and deprived of sleep by military intelligence officers who were answerable only "directly to London", `The
Independent` reported, citing documents.
The revelations, about the use of illegal "coercive techniques" in Iraq by Joint Forward Interrogation Team, came during the inquiry into the death of Baha Mousa, an Iraqi hotel worker who was beaten to death in the custody of British troops in 2003.
In a statement to the inquiry commission, Colonel Christopher Vernon said he raised concerns after seeing 30 to 40 prisoners in a kneeling position with sacks over their heads and those in charge were from the Army`s intelligence headquarters, the report said.
Col Veron was informed that "they were an independent unit and reported directly to the chain of command in London". Hooding was "accepted practice" and would continue, he was told.
"They reiterated the point they were an independent unit and did not come under the command of the GOC1 (UK) Armed Div (the Iraq command)," he said. Asked by the inquiry last week whether there was "some sort of feeling generally in the Army, the intelligence people were slightly on their own and running their own show", Col Vernon replied: "I think you could say that."
In a second statement, Colonel David Frend, a British Army legal adviser in Iraq, said that he was told by a senior military intelligence officer in London that "there was a legitimate reason for it (hooding), they had always done it and they would like to continue to do it."
"My recollection is that he said that they -- ie those at JFIT -- had been trained to hood. My understanding from the conversation was simply the use of hessian sandbags as hoods were something that had been taught to members of the JFIT at some point prior to deployment (to Iraq) and that it was not a unilateral act by them," Col Frend was quoted as saying. However, a Ministry of Defence spokesman has declined to comment on the issue.