The British military’s chain of command has instructed the country’s top investigators not to examine hundreds of incidents involving Iraqi deaths and serious injury, a former British military police officer told the BBC Sunday.
“I’ve seen documentary evidence that there were incidents running into the hundreds involving death and serious injury to Iraqis where the chain of command of the Army had decided that the circumstances did not warrant a Royal Military Police investigation,” the former British Army officer, whose face was obscured, told a BBC interviewer. “And if you look at the general picture that the media says, Afghanistan seems a lot quieter in terms of alleged misconduct of British troops, that to me is quite concerning, because it tells me that the Army hasn’t suddenly gotten a lot better. It tells me that the Royal Military Police are very efficiently toeing the party line for the Army.”
“It is an extremely dark and sorry situation,” the officer added. “I think that the vast majority of soldiers have served the country well and with distinction. It is the actions of a few that have been shown to be bad apples. But it is very fair to say that because the system is so structurally flawed, and some of the decision making has been so perverse, that I is fair to say that the barrel is probably rotten.”
The Royal Military Police is charged with policing military personnel, service property and military operations.
In the interview, the officer said that he and others had brought their concerns to the military, but that few come forward because of the consequences to their careers. He didn’t specifically spell out what the incidents that weren’t investigated entailed.
“As soon as you raise concerns… life can be very easily made very difficult for anybody not toeing the party line,” he said. “It’s well known that if you don’t toe the official party line… you won’t get promoted.”
Part of the problem, the officer suggested, was likely due to the fact that the police weren’t used to such a magnitude of serious inquiries.
“The Iraq War… catapulted the Royal Military Police onto the world stage and took them out of a comfort zone where they’d previously be investigating quite routine lower level type crimes to investigating very serious allegations of alleged torture and murder,” he remarked. “And if you look back at all the serious allegations arising out of all the operations in Iraq there’s a catalog of blunders, mistakes, ineptitutde and the course of investigations being bent to serve the real or perceived interests of the chain of command of the army.”
The military can stymie investigations without directly covering them up, he said — pointing out that because the conflict zones remain dangerous, investigators need only be denied access to the scene.
“If its a hot operation environment,” the officer said, “the chain of command can deny the use of helicopters, they can deny protection for the investigators to go to scenes… They can make it very difficult.”
“I would say that it is definitely the case that the public and indeed international partners do not have any trust and confidence in the investigation of incidents involving alleged misconduct by British troops,” he added.