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UK soldier admits Iraq war crimes

July 2, 2012

Friday, September 29. 2006

A British soldier has become the first to admit war crimes in Iraq, pleading guilty to abusing Iraqi civilians until they started a “choir” of pain.

A court martial found Corporal Donald Payne, 35, guilty of beating Iraqi detainees in British custody with iron bars and starving and forcing them to drink their own urines.

“We are dealing with systematic abuse against prisoners involving unacceptable violence against persons who were detained in custody, hooded and cuffed and wholly unable to protect themselves over a very long period of time,” Julian Bevan QC, for the prosecution, told the court.

Payne is one of seven troopers facing court martial over the death of an Iraqi hotel receptionist, Baha Musa, in the southern city of Basra.

Musa was arrested along with other detainees by a British patrol six months after the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The detainees were taken to a temporary detention center where they were beaten while handcuffed and forced to wear sacks on their heads.

“They were repeatedly beaten when handcuffed and hooded with hessian sacks, deprived of sleep, continually shouted at and generally abused,” said Bevan.

“One civilian, Baha Musa, died as a result, in part, from the multiple injuries he had received,” he added. Bevan told the court the hotel receptionist had no less than 93 injuries on his body at the post-mortem stage, including fractured ribs and a broken nose.

“The force he used was totally unnecessary and must have caused severe pain leaving aside general suffering.”

Other prisoners received serious kidney injuries consistent with being kicked and punched, Bevan added.

A footage showing abuses of the Iraqi detainees was shown during the court hearing.

Payne was shown forcing a hooded, moaning detainee into a stress position prior to questioning, according to the BBC News Online.

Moans of pain from the detainees were heard on the footage, which was recorded by another soldier.

Payne ordered one man to “f***ing get down” and forced him into a knees-bent position before dragging him back up as he collapsed.

“Corporal Payne plainly enjoyed conducting what he called the choir, and he conducted the choir for the enjoyment and pleasure of those that visited the detention facility,” Bevan insisted.

The “choir” was the noises detainees made when they were kicked and punched.

Another British soldier being prosecuted for war crimes also admitted kicking the detained hotel receptionist to death while drinking at a bar in 2005.

In 2005, two British soldiers were found guilty of abusing Iraqi civilians at a base in Basra known as Camp Breadbasket, while a third pleaded guilty.

In 2004, Amnesty International said British forces in Iraq have shot and killed Iraqi civilians, including an eight-year-old girl, though they faced no apparent threat.

Mistreatment of Iraqis by the convicted soldiers – including one Iraqi being suspended from a forklift truck and others forced to simulate sex acts – was captured in photographs that were published around the world after they were released as evidence.

According to the BBC, the number of British soldiers deserting military service over Iraq has been on the rise with more than 1,000 personnel going absent without leave and failing to return since the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003.

Ben Griffin, who was allowed to leave the military after he told his commander he would not return to Iraq due to the illegal acts committed by US troops, has become the public face of many UK soldiers demoralized by the Iraq occupation.

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