British Soldier Faces War Crimes Probe

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  1. British soldier attached to special forces faces war crimes probe
    A British soldier serving with the special forces is facing war crime charges after threatening to shoot dead a Taliban prisoner during interrogation unless he co-operated.

    Sean Rayment, Defence correspondent

    Published: 9:30PM BST 17 Oct 2009

    The alleged offence took place in the Helmand province of Afghanistan in August, during a two-month period of high intensity combat which left 37 soldiers dead and more than 100 injured.

    Officers from the Royal Military Police's special investigation branch are now attempting to discover whether the alleged prisoner abuse was an isolated incident or part of a wider covert policy of using mental torture techniques to extract information from Taliban detainees.

    A file on the offence is now with the Army Prosecuting Authority, the military equivalent of the Crown Prosecution Service, and is part of a wide ranging Royal Military Police (RMP) investigation.

    If charged, the soldier, who was serving with the special forces support group (SFSG), will be tried by court martial. If found guilty of either war crimes or assault with a weapon, he could expect to receive a custodial sentence.

    For reasons of security, members of the special forces or soldiers attached to them cannot be identified but the soldier holds the rank of lance corporal and is aged 25. He is a trained "pashto" interpreter, and has served in the Army for eight years.

    If proven, the allegations will be hugely damaging to both the Army and the government, which is already facing an inquiry into the killing of Baha Mousa, an Iraqi civilian who was beaten to death while in British custody in September 2003.

    Threatening detainees or prisoners of war with violence is both a breach of the Geneva Convention and is defined as a war crime under the International Criminal Court Act.

    International war crime legislation became part of British law in 2001 but only one soldier has been convicted of breaching the act.

    Corporal Donald Payne was jailed for one year and dismissed from the army after pleading guilty in September 2006 to a charge of inhumane treatment of several Iraqi prisoners.

    The latest incident took place in a forward operating base in Helmand after members of the special forces captured several suspected Taliban gunmen believed to have been responsible for carrying out improvised explosive device attacks against British troops.

    The suspect, described as a "high value target", was being interrogated by a member of the special forces unit specially trained in "tactical questioning", with a British military interpreter and an Afghan interpreter present.

    It is understood that at one stage during the interview, when the suspect was refusing to answer questions, the British interpreter drew his pistol, cocked it and pushed the prisoner's head down on to the table. He then pressed the gun into the back of the suspect's head and said in Pashto – "answer the questions or you're dead."

    The Sunday Telegraph has learnt that the interrogator formally complained about the incident, which was corroborated by an Afghan interpreter who was present. It is also understood that the soldier also admitted the offence when he was later questioned by a senior officer.

    Last week the soldier was arrested and questioned under caution by members of the Royal Military Police at Catterick Garrison, in Yorkshire. He was later released and is now on leave.

    A source close to the inquiry said: "The police will try and establish whether there are any mitigating circumstances which would warrant such action – but it seems unlikely that there are. We are now in the arena of war crimes or assault with a deadly weapon – either way it is very damaging. We thought that after Baha Mousa this sort of thing was history."

    War crimes are defined as "violations of the laws of war" and these include the ill-treatment of prisoners of war, which includes death threats during interrogation and mental torture.

    The SFSG is the Army's newest special operations unit and is formed around the 1st battalion The Parachute Regiment. The unit is composed of members of the Royal Marines and the RAF Regiment and is based at RAF St. Athan, in Glamorgan, Wales. From its inception in 2006, the regiment has supported the special forces on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  2. Bad CO

    Bad CO LE Admin Reviews Editor Gallery Guru

    Usual rules on commenting on sub judice cases pse..... i.e we leave it until the legal process has worked through.
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