UK soldiers asked to go soft while interrogating terrorists

The UK has imposed strict new rules for interrogation of terrorists by British soldiers that even ban shouting in captives' ears, leading to disquiet among military chiefs who feel that it makes tactical questioning pointless.

PTI| Updated: Dec 14, 2014, 19:45 PM IST

London: The UK has imposed strict new rules for interrogation of terrorists by British soldiers that even ban shouting in captives' ears, leading to disquiet among military chiefs who feel that it makes tactical questioning pointless.

The rules detailed in court papers obtained by 'The Sunday Telegraph' newspaper forbid military intelligence officers from banging their fists on tables or walls, or using "insulting words" when interrogating a suspect.

The new regulations replaced a previous policy that had to be withdrawn after a series of legal challenges and the death in custody of an Iraqi detainee in Basra, the Telegraph reported.

There was global condemnation last week when a US Senate report disclosed how the CIA had systematically tortured detainees in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

Despite this, British military chiefs insist interrogations can be vital in thwarting future terrorist attacks and in combating insurgents in hostile environments.

There is reportedly growing disquiet within the ranks that the latest guidelines, officially called Challenge Direct, are so stringent that it makes interrogation pointless.

There is also concern that the rules can be so easily breached especially given the pressure under which soldiers are operating that military personnel will be left exposed to legal claims and possible disciplinary action.

Col Tim Collins, who made a celebrated eve-of-battle speech during the Iraq war and now runs a private security company with expertise in intelligence gathering, said: "Since I was serving, the rules on interrogations have been tightened up because of the lawyers. We (the military) are no longer able to carry out tactical questioning.

"The effect of the ambulance-chasing lawyers and the play-it-safe judges is that we have got to the point where we have lost our operational capability to do tactical questioning.

That in itself brings risks to the lives of the people we deploy. These insurgents are not nice people. These are criminals. They behead people; they keep sex slaves. They are not normal people."

The rules on interrogation are contained in a UK Court of Appeal judgment handed down in the summer and obtained by 'The Sunday Telegraph'.

The policy was introduced two years ago after outrage over the death of Baha Mousa, an innocent Iraqi civilian who was beaten to death while in British custody in Basra in 2003.

An inquiry into his death, published in 2011, disclosed that he had been subjected to sustained and gratuitous beatings by British soldiers.