Britain sent hundreds to face torture
By Louise Nousratpour
Morning Star, 26 February 2008
FORMER SAS soldier Ben Griffin revealed yesterday that British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan were “deeply involved” in US torture flights.
Since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, British special forces, operating in a joint US/UK task force, have been responsible for the detention of “hundreds, if not thousands” of individuals, he said. These detainees have since ended up in Baghdad’s infamous Abu Ghraib prison, Guantanamo Bay and other secret CIA locations.
“During my time as member of the US/UK task force, three of my colleagues witnessed a brutal interrogation in which near-drowning and electric cattle prods were used,” Mr Griffin told a Stop the War Coalition press conference. “The special forces’ policy of detention and not arrest was regarded as a clumsy legal tool used to distance British soldiers from the whole process. But my colleagues and I were in no doubt that anyone we detained, including non-combatants, would subsequently be tortured.”
Last week, Foreign Secretary David Miliband admitted to MPs that two US rendition flights transporting terror suspects had landed on British soil. But Mr Griffin said that this “pales into insignificance” to the actions of British forces, adding: “For the government to claim that they only became aware of the use of British territory this week is disingenuous.”
He rejected claims that the British army had acted as a bulwark against US torture in Iraq and Afghanistan, arguing: “In my experience, the opposite is true – that British soldiers have become more like their US counterparts. The British army has accepted illegality as the norm.”
Mr Griffin, who left the army on moral grounds early last year, said that Prime Minister Gordon Brown, his predecessor Tony Blair, former foreign secretary Jack Straw and Mr Miliband should all be in the dock for breaching international laws on torture.
“They must know that British soldiers have been operating within this joint US/UK task force,” he said. “These breaches were not the actions of rogue elements. The abuse was systematic and sanctioned through the chain of command.”
Mr Griffin also exposed the government’s call for the closure of Guantanamo as a mere red herring, noting: “The use of secret detention centres within Iraq has negated the need to use Guantanamo while allowing similar practice to go unnoticed.”
Stop the War Coalition convener Lindsey German said that her organisation had received “massive anecdotes” from returning soldiers and military families about British army involvement in torture and abuse. “We want a full independent inquiry into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to discuss these issues and to bring to account those responsible,” she demanded.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman denied the allegations, insisting: “We have always condemned torture.”