Amnesty International: UK Troops Killed Iraqi Civilians | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 11.05.2004
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Amnesty International: UK Troops Killed Iraqi Civilians

Human rights organization Amnesty International claimed Tuesday that British soldiers killed Iraqi civilians in non-threatening situations.


British troops: Making Iraq even more unsafe?

In a report published Tuesday, Amnesty International documented cases of British soldiers shooting and killing civilians in Iraq, including an eight-year-old girl and a guest at a wedding party, who were no threat to the troops.

The human rights organization said many of the cases had not been investigated, and in those that were, the Royal Military Police had been secretive and given families little or no information about progress.

"Instead of the Army deciding whether to investigate itself when civilians are killed, there must be a full, impartial and civilian-led investigation into all allegations of killings by UK troops," Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen said in an interview with the BBC Tuesday.

Allen said there were 37 cases in which British soldiers were thought to have killed Iraqi civilians who had not threatened them. Only 18 had been investigated.

The British Ministry of Defense did not comment on the report, saying it would respond to the allegations after it had time to examine them.

Civilians killed

Amnesty said a witness told them that a soldier had aimed and fatally shot a girl from around 60 meters away, countering an Army suggestion that the 8-year-old was killed by a warning shot. UK soldiers also allegedly shot a 22-year-old man who was celebrating a wedding, despite a neighbor having told them them that the sounds of gunshots were part of the festivities.

The report, based on research the group carried out in British-administered southern Iraq in February and March, also documented political and "moral" killings. Armed groups and individuals are said to have killed dozens or even hundreds of former members of the Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath party, professionals, mainly Christian alcohol sellers and shopkeepers selling music and videos. Amnesty said no legal action had been taken against the killers.

"We are told in the UK that southern Iraq is comparatively safe and secure. Yet Iraqis on the ground have painted a very different picture," Allen said. "People live in fear of armed groups, who can strike with seeming impunity."

Further abuse

Amnesty International's report is just the tip of the iceberg in a series of allegations of transgressions by UK troops in Iraq. The country has been shaken in the past week by graphic photographs and soldiers' testimonies published in the national media suggesting that troops abused and even killed Iraqi prisoners.

Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose popularity has plummeted since the Iraq war, had been trying to draw attention away from Iraq when the mistreatment allegations surfaced. He apologized for UK soldiers' abuses Sunday.

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