London: Allegations that British troops killed captured Iraqi prisoners and tortured or seriously abused others after a battle in 2004 were “baseless”, a long-running inquiry concluded on Wednesday.
The Al-Sweady inquiry, which has lasted five years and has cost around 30 million pounds ($47 million), was charged with examining allegations made by Iraqis that British soldiers captured alive and then murdered up to 20 men during and after the battle in southern Iraq.
Iraqi witnesses told the inquiry that British soldiers killed the men at the Abu Naji army camp in May 2004 and separately that they mistreated nine detainees, whereas the troops said the men died fighting on the battlefield and denied mistreatment.
Wrapping up the inquiry, which heard allegations of multiple murders, torture, and mutilation, Chairman Thayne Forbes said all the gravest allegations had turned out to be false and criticised Iraqi testimony.
“I have come to the firm conclusion that the vast majority of the allegations made against the British military... including, without exception, all the most serious allegations, were wholly and entirely without merit or justification,” he said.
“Very many of those baseless allegations were the product of deliberate and calculated lies on the part of those who made them."
However Forbes did recommend changes to the way the British army treats detainees and said that some behaviour amounted to “actual or possible ill-treatment", including the lack of adequate food and sleep and the use of certain questioning methods.