8 August 2008
The alleged incident took place at a humanitarian aid distribution centre situated just of Basra in southern Iraq. The centre is known locally as ‘Camp Breadbasket’ because of its links with the UN World Food Programme. Following the occupation of Basra by British troops, the Camp was used to accommodate elements of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.
In May 2003, British soldiers took part in an operation nicknamed ‘Operation Ali Baba’ which was apparently aimed at stopping looting from the Camp, which was a common occurrence. In the early hours of the 15 May, British soldiers rounded up local Iraqis from in and around the Camp. Some of those arrested state that they were legitimate workers at the Camp, others seem to have been rounded up from the surrounding area.
The five Iraqis allege that they were unlawfully detained by British soldiers at the Camp. They were assaulted and beaten using car aerials and wooden sticks for hours, ordered to carry heavy loads such as cement blocks and an iron cage with other Iraqis in it and made to run around the compound. A couple of Claimants were placed on a forklift truck and photographs were taken of this. Other Claimants were "punished" by being forced to pick up rubbish around the compound. Some of them were made to strip naked and forced to participate in sexually humiliating/abusive acts, which were again photographed by many soldiers. Throughout the ordeal the soldiers jeered and laughed at the Claimants.
The Claimants were held at Camp Breadbasket for between three and nine hours until their release the same day. Following their release, the Claimants have suffered not only from their physical injuries but are also deeply humiliated and traumatised by what occurred.
The incident came to the attention of the authorities when Fusilier Gary Bartlam took 15 photographs to be developed in a local photo shop in the UK. Staff at the shop were shocked at the content of the photographs and called the police.
Fusilier Gary Bartlam was arrested, court martialed, sentenced to 18 months in custody and dismissed from the army with disgrace.
Following Bartlam’s conviction a second court martial was held in Osnabruck, Germany. Three further soldiers, Corporal Kenyon, Lance Corporal Cooley and Lance Corporal Larkin were charged with various offences in relation to the incident at Camp Breadbasket. All three soldiers were given prison sentences and were dismissed from the army with disgrace. Recently a second military investigation was carried out into the incident but in June 2008, the Army Prosecuting Authority decided not to prefer any disciplinary or administrative against any soldier.
22 shocking photographs were produced as evidence at the Court Martials. They showed detainees, naked, being forced to simulate/participate in sexual acts with other detainees. Another photo shows an Iraqi male being strung up in a net and suspended from a forklift truck. Redacted copies of these photographs appeared widely in the media following the incident.
Assistant Solicitor in the International Claims Department Shubhaa Srinivasan comments “The shocking thing about these cases is not only the appalling treatment to which the Claimants were subjected to but the fact that British soldiers photographed the incident like they were on some sort of jolly with no awareness that what they were doing was wrong and illegal. Those involved showed a complete disregard for the rights of the people they had captured and seem to have been encouraged by their superiors to deter the looters by treating them harshly during their detention, trouble is, these things can rapidly get our of hand".
If you would like to speak to someone about these claims, please contact Shubhaa Srinivasan
on 0207 650 343
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