Iraq abuse inquiry 'a whitewash'

An inquiry into allegations that British troops abused Iraqi prisoners has become "little more than a whitewash", a former investigator has claimed.

Louise Thomas, a former Royal Navy Wren and police officer who worked with the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), told the Guardian she resigned after six months because she was unhappy at the lack of progress.

She told the paper she had seen around 1,600 videos of interrogation sessions showing prisoners being abused and humiliated, including extreme sleep deprivation and beatings between interrogation sessions.

She accused investigators of being ineffective and showing little concern for what they were seeing. "I saw a really dark side of the British Army," she told the newspaper. "The videos showed really quite terrible abuses. But some of the IHAT investigators just weren't interested."

Some 128 Iraqis complain that the UK armed forces were guilty of systemic abuse of detainees between March 2003 and December 2008 when they controlled the Basra area in southern Iraq following the overthrow of Saddam Hussain.

In March this year the Royal Military Police were removed from IHAT following a critical ruling by the Court of Appeal. Three appeal judges said IHAT lacked "the requisite independence" and that the involvement of RMP investigators could give rise to "the public perception of the possibility of bias". Their role was given to the Royal Navy Police under the command of the Provost Marshal (Navy).

Ms Thomas told the Guardian that some IHAT investigators made comments including "who cares, they're terrorists" or "they're only bombers" while watching interview videos. "They would laugh at me, because I was interested and concerned," she told the paper. "They would say 'Here comes Miss Marple' when I came by."

She also claimed the Ministry of Defence had not released all the videos to IHAT.

British troops ended combat operations in Iraq in April 2009 after a war that lasted over six years, claimed the lives of 179 UK personnel and cost more than £9 billion.

An MoD spokesman said: "All of these allegations of abuse are known to the Ministry of Defence and Iraq Historical Allegations Team, which is why the independent IHAT is already investigating them. The MoD has co-operated fully, including the provision of all known evidence. We are confident in the IHAT's abilities and following the outcome of their investigations, action will be considered against individuals where appropriate. Any criticisms about IHAT itself are for the organisation to answer."