UK War Criminal: Troops Kicked and Punched Iraqis

By: Meera Selva - AP Writer
By: Meera Selva - AP Writer

Britain's first convicted war criminal said Monday that some of his fellow soldiers frequently beat Iraqi detainees.

Former Cpl. Donald Payne, who was jailed for a year in the death
of hotel receptionist Baha Mousa and is now free, said that he had
downplayed some of the abuses allegedly committed by his unit out
of a sense of "misguided loyalty."

Mousa was held by British forces in the southern Iraq city of
Basra and died of more than 96 separate injuries in 2003.

Payne's testimony at a public inquiry into Mousa's death comes
in the wake of Britain's Ministry of Defense saying Saturday it was
investigating 33 allegations of rape and abuse against British
soldiers - male and female - who were stationed in Iraq.

Craig Rodgers, kick and punch the detainees in September 2003.

Payne said he saw several soldiers, including unit leader Lt.
Payne became Britain's first convicted war criminal during a
court martial hearing that began in 2006 and ended a year later.
Payne was on trial with six other soldiers, who were all cleared
due to a lack of evidence.

He now admits he didn't disclose some of the worst abuses as he
knew they would harm the reputation of his regiment and the British

"After prolonged consideration and after discussions with
members of my legal team, I now realize this has amounted to
misguided loyalty," he said in a written statement given to
lawyers at the inquiry.

"The degree of force I applied (to the prisoners) was greater
than I have so far admitted," he said, adding that he had "seen
each one (soldier), including Lt. Rodgers, forcefully kick and or
punch the detainees."

Britain's Ministry of Defense did not immediately return a call
seeking comment on Payne's new allegations.

Payne was later questioned at the inquiry by lawyer Gerard
Elias, who asked if Payne used gratuitous violence against the
prisoners. Payne replied, "Yes."

Payne also said Rodgers had pretended to set a young boy alight
by placing a can of petrol in front of him and lighting a match.

Rodgers, who has since left the army, said in a statement he did
not hit, punch or physically assault any of the detainees.

Judge Jeff Blackett and Judge Stuart McKinnon, who presided over
Payne's court martial, ordered the press not to show images of
Payne's face or publish any details about his job, address or
family. They said the restrictions were put in place because of
security risks associated with anyone who might be perceived to
have taken part in operations in Iraq.

The reporting restrictions still apply in the current inquiry
into Mousa's death.

The British government set up the inquiry into the circumstances
around Mousa's death in 2008. Witnesses have already told how
British soldiers covered prisoners' heads with hoods and made them
stand in uncomfortable positions.

The inquiry chairman, retired judge William Gage, can demand
that criminal or civil proceedings begin against those involved.

The Ministry of Defense also said it will act on any
recommendations Gage makes about the way the British army is

Last week, the government announced that former Prime Minister
Tony Blair will be publicly questioned about the Iraq war in
another public inquiry to investigate what if any mistakes were
made before and during the US-led operation.

The inquiry chairman John Chilcot released a longer list Monday
of other officials who will also be called on to testify.

They include former British ambassador to the U.S. Christopher
Meyer and Peter Ricketts, former chair of the Joint Intelligence
Committee, which advises the government on national security

They also include past and present chiefs of Britain's MI6
foreign spy agency. John Scarlett, who retired as director general
of the Secret Intelligence Service last month, will also be
questioned about tenure at the Intelligence Committee in between
2001 and 2004, during which time he oversaw the government's
dossier on Iraq's purported weapons of mass destruction.

John Sawers, who took over as MI6 chief this month, is due to be
called to speak about his time as Blair's private secretary.

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