(ANTIMEDIA) United Kingdom — A judge is examining claims that British troops threw Iraqi civilians into rivers during the 2003 invasion. Sir George Newman, the former High Court judge presiding over the series of inquiries, has announced he will be looking into a practice known as “wetting.” The common practice was employed by British troops to deal with suspected looters and involved throwing or placing them in water. Amid a lack of specific training and direction, commanders drew up the tactics to deal with looters and teach them a lesson.
Thousands of claims of mistreatment have been lodged against British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. At the beginning of 2016, the U.K. government had paid out £20m in 326 cases. Allegations of abuse amounting to war crimes or cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment are said to include beatings, burning, electric shocks, and mock executions. Accusations of sexual assault and humiliation include forced nakedness and forced or simulated sexual acts.
Allegations were initially investigated by the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), an agency within the Ministry of Defence (MoD), however, the High Court ruled IHAT didn’t meet the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights — in all cases. In response, the series of investigations into civilian deaths, known as the Iraq Fatality Investigations, was set up to probe a number of cases further.
Sir Newman announced on Wednesday he would be looking into the practice of “wetting” as three soldiers and their sergeant faced their third probe into the death of 15-year-old Ahmed Jabbar Kareem Ali. Ahmed’s father claims his son was abused by the troops before being driving to a local river and forced into the water at gunpoint.
After the boy drowned in the Basra canal, the four soldiers were charged with manslaughter but were subsequently cleared during a five-week court martial in 2006.
During Wednesday’s hearing — after being assured they would not face further charges — the soldiers admitted they were wrong to leave the Iraqi boy, who could not swim, to drown. They said Ahmed and the other looters were detained at a time when British troops struggled to contain the wave of looting that erupted in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion.
Sir George Newman is expected to report on his findings later this year, though if it is anything like the wait for the results of the Chilcot report, be advised not to hold your breath.
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