LONDON (Reuters) - A probe has been launched into allegations British soldiers tortured Iraqi prisoners, a day after similar revelations involving U.S. troops received widespread condemnation.
Britain's army chief General Sir Mike Jackson ordered an immediate inquiry after it emerged that the Daily Mirror in its Saturday editions was to publish photos of British soldiers abusing prisoners.
The paper told Reuters the images included one of a British soldier urinating on a crouching, hooded Iraqi.
"I am aware of the allegations which have been made today of abuse of prisoners by British soldiers in Iraq," Jackson said in a statement.
"The allegations are already under investigation. If proven not only is such appalling conduct clearly unlawful it clearly contravenes the British army's high standards.
"If proven the perpetrators are not fit to wear the queen's uniform. They have besmirched the good name of the army and its honour."
The British probe comes after U.S. President George W. Bush said he was "deeply disgusted" by photos released this week showing American troops abusing Iraqi prisoners held at the Abu Ghraib prison, once a notorious centre of torture and executions under ousted President Saddam Hussein.
The U.S. military has brought criminal charges against six soldiers relating to accusations of abuses from November and December 2003 on some 20 detainees, including indecent acts with another person, maltreatment, battery, dereliction of duty and aggravated assault.
Prime Minister Tony Blair, who had earlier strongly condemned the abuse involving U.S. soldiers, gave his backing to the army's investigation.
"The prime minister fully endorses both the statement by General Sir Michael Jackson and the action he is taking as well as the speed with which the army is acting," his spokesman said.
"The prime minister agrees that allegations of this nature are treated most seriously, but they should not be taken as a reflection of the general behaviour of coalition forces and the work they are doing with the Iraqi people."
Britain's forces in Iraq, concentrated in the south of the country around Basra, have previously been praised for their conduct towards the Iraqi people.
There have been previous inquiries into allegations of abuse against British soldiers in Iraq, but none have warranted such a high-profile response from authorities.
The human rights charity Amnesty International said it had warned U.S. and British authorities in Iraq that captives were being abused.
"We have talked to ex-prisoners, who say when they were taken into custody they were hooded and beaten, sometimes numerous times and subjected on some occasions to psychological torture and acts of sexual humiliation," Amnesty's Neil Durkin told Sky News.
"They (the provisional authority) simply have not acted on these reports. There is on the face of it a pattern."
This doesn't come as a surprise to me. When the American soldiers' abuse of the prisoners came out, I thought "wow, this is just NOW coming out?"
Most of the members of the military (generally excluding officers, though not in all cases) I know are the "huh huh, kill them bastards," type with no sympathy and no remorse. I wouldn't expect the british military to be any different. Obviously this doesn't mean every single soldier over there from every single country involved participates in this nonsense, and I am not suggesting that. But I feel very safe in assuming that these two instances are far, far, far, far from isolated incidents.
Sad as it is, I'm in agreement with Bucs. I have a friend who's been out there serving, and he basically said exactly the same thing: There's like a half-and-half split between those who show respect for the tenets they stand for and those who treat it like a power trip. It's not a comfortable situation at all.
Putting people in a situation like Iraq with all the associated horrors of war and people do things they normally wouldn't do. I am not excusing it but I understand how it can happen. Soldiers are guilty of abuse and atrocities in every war.
According to the BBC, the Queens Lancashire Regiment has some concerns regarding the veracity of these pictures and allegations. I suppose they're bound to try and take some of the heat off while they investigate.