by Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, Tuesday February 26 2008
Hundreds of Iraqis and Afghans captured by British and American special forces were rendered to prisons where they faced torture, a former SAS soldier said yesterday. Ben Griffin said individuals detained by SAS troops in a joint UK-US special forces taskforce had ended up in interrogation centres in Iraq, including the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, and in Afghanistan, as well as Guantánamo Bay.
Griffin, 29, left the British army last year after three months in Baghdad, saying he disagreed with the "illegal" tactics of US troops. While ministers had stated their wish that the Guantanamo Bay camp should be closed, they had been silent over prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said. He added: "These secretive prisons are part of a global network in which individuals face torture and are held indefinitely without charge. All of this is in direct contravention of the Geneva conventions, international law and the UN convention against torture."
Referring to the government's admission last week that two US rendition flights containing terror suspects had landed at the British territory of Diego Garcia, Griffin said the use of British territory and airspace "pales into insignificance in light of the fact that it has been British soldiers detaining the victims of extraordinary rendition in the first place".
He told a Stop the War Coalition press conference in London that since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, UK special forces had operated within a joint US-UK taskforce that had been responsible for the detention of "hundreds if not thousands of individuals in Afghanistan and Iraq". The primary mission of the taskforce in Iraq was to kill or capture "high-value targets". However, the taskforce often detained non-combatants.
He said he had not himself witnessed torture or mistreatment. But he added: "I have no doubt in my mind that non-combatants I personally detained were handed over to the Americans and subsequently tortured."
He continued: "It is only since I have left the army [and] I have read the Geneva Convention and the UN Convention on Torture, that I realised that we have broken so many of these conventions and treaties in Iraq."
He said three fellow soldiers had told him on separate occasions that they had witnessed the interrogation of two detainees in Iraq using "partial drowning and an electric cattle prod". Ministers must have been briefed on the activities of the taskforce and should be charged with breach of conventions protecting individuals from torture, he added.
The Ministry of Defence said yesterday it did not comment on the activities of special forces. However, senior army officers and parliament's security and intelligence committee have expressed concern about ignorance among British troops about both national and international law covering the treatment of prisoners.
The Guardian, Tuesday February 26 2008